Civil War Reconstruction Project Ideas

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

After learning about Reconstruction with your middle or high school students, use these projects to help students think critically about what they have learned and take their research a step further.

Lessons from Reconstruction

After the Civil War, the American South was plunged into the Reconstruction Period where the country worked to come back together and rebuild both physically and politically. This time period was marked by new laws, new social customs and some positive change. However, amidst this was growing social and sometimes political hostility towards newly freed African-Americans. Use these project ideas after covering the Reconstruction period to help students think critically about what they learned and dive even deeper into the past.

Empathetic History: A Series of Letters

For this project, students will be creating a variety of journal entries or letters to the editor based on the perspective of someone who lived in the South during the Reconstruction Era.

Students will take on the persona of their choice. Some possibilities include a newly freed slave, an average farmer, a wealthy plantation owner, a soldier who served in the Civil War, etc.

Once they have picked their persona, they will write seven letters or journal entries. The writings should be written in the first-person perspective from a variety of dates across the Reconstruction period (1865-1877). Their writings should site relevant historical events and show evidence of understanding the complexities of this era from history.

Some of the letter collections may even show a change of heart from the first to last letter.

Remind students that they do not know about events beyond 1877 while writing their entries, as they are supposed to be written during the historical period.

  • Materials Needed: Paper

Analyzing and Recreating the Reconstruction Amendments

For this project, students will analyze the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, which are also known as the ''Reconstruction Amendments.'' Each amendment attempted to create more equality for African-Americans in the United States.

Students will first answer the following questions for each amendment:

  • What was the goal of the amendment?
  • How successful was it?
  • Did anything prevent it from creating equality?

After doing this, students will recreate the amendments. They should take the original text and change the wording - adding or omitting certain parts - to create three amendments that would create true equality.

Once finished, they should write a three paragraph explanation of how their amendments would be more successful than the original amendments. If this is completed in a group setting, have students discuss the problems with the original amendments and their proposed changes.

  • Materials Needed: Copies of 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, paper

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