Documents

The documents compiled in this collection are suggested for use within the lessons on our Reconstruction era website. Here you will find primary source historical documents and images that can be used as handouts in your classroom. For additional primary source material, you can see our complete unit on this history, The Reconstruction Era and the Fragility of Democracy.

Reading
Race in US History

A Black Republican Leader Asks for Protection (1875)

The Black president of Bolton, MS's Republican Club writes Governor Ames asking for protection.

Reading
Race in US History

A Day of Triumph

Northerner Caroline Bartlett White celebrates the Union’s victory and the end of the Civil War.

Reading
Race in US History

Anthony Johnson: A Man in Control of His Own

In Virginia in the 1620s, slavery and indentured servitude existed, but there were both white and black servants and slaves. No one was a slave for life; rather, many immigrants to North America agreed to work for a planter for a specific period of time in exchange for their passage to the New World and food and shelter once they arrived. In 1622, a black indentured servant named Anthony Johnson appeared in the historical record. Charles Johnson and Patricia Smith tell his story.

Reading
Race in US History

Black Officeholders in the South

The following seven tables provide information about the numbers of African American officeholders in the South during Reconstruction and the backgrounds of those officeholders.

Reading
Race in US History

Collaborators and Bystanders

Read historian Eric Foner's description of whom the Ku Klux Klan drew support from during the Reconstruction era.

Reading
Race in US History

Louisiana White League Platform (1874)

The White League was a paramilitary group that was allied with the Democratic Party in the South. In 1874 and 1875, the White League was responsible for widespread violence against black and white Republicans in Louisiana and Mississippi. The group’s platform from 1874 is articulated here.

Reading
Race in US History

Mississippi Black Codes (1865)

The Mississippi Black Codes attempt to codify expectations of freedpeople around topics such as intermarriage and labor laws.

Reading
The Reconstruction Era

Pardon/Franchise Engravings by Thomas Nast

Analyze a wood engraving by Thomas Nast that depicts the tension between the demands of healing and justice during the Reconstruction era.

Reading
Race in US History

President Hayes Removes the Remaining Troops

The 1876 presidential race between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden was extremely close. Amidst violence, intimidation, and voter fraud, the winner of the election for president and governor in South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana was disputed. These states were the last three former Confederate states governed by Republicans. Congress set up a special commission to decide the election, and a compromise was reached. According to the Compromise of 1877, the three Southern states would give their electoral votes for president to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, but Democrats would be allowed to take control of the governments of those states. Hayes was inaugurated on March 5, 1877. Among his first acts was to end Northern occupation of the states still under military control.

Reading
Race in US History

Presidential Reconstruction

Investigate aspects of President Andrew Johnson’s plans for Reconstruction that outlined how to bring former Confederate citizens and states back into the Union.

Reading
Race in US History

Speech by Senator Charles Hays Reaffirming the Rights of African Americans (1874)

In 1874, Congress was debating a new civil rights bill that would end segregation of public transportation and public accommodations (such as hotels). Charles Hays of Alabama, a former slaveholder turned Republican congressman, supported the bill despite growing opposition, threats, and violence in his state. Here he addresses Congress to share his views.

Reading
Race in US History

The Honoured Representative of Four Millions of Colored People

Historian Douglas R. Egerton describes the life and political career of Mississippi politician Blanche K. Bruce, the first African-American to serve a full six-year term in the United States Senate.

Pages

Looking for more lessons and primary source documents to teach the Reconstruction era? Get our complete unit on this important history, available in print, ebook, and free PDF.

Get the Unit

Search Our Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.