Throughout most of the 20th century, US history books, films, and other works of popular culture told a story of Reconstruction which today's historians consider obsolete and incorrect and which was used to justify segregation. Many Americans still hold misconceptions about the Reconstruction era to this day. Centered on A Contested History, the Introduction to Facing History's video series about the Reconstruction, and enhanced with readings and activities, this lesson will help to illuminate how our experience of the past affects our choices and beliefs in the present. By watching the video and analyzing historical documents, students will learn about the misrepresentations of the history of Reconstruction. Students will also discuss and reflect on how the way a society understands its history can shape individuals’ beliefs about the present and can affect political, economic, and social choices.
This lesson is part of Facing History and Ourselves’ work on the Reconstruction era, and part of a series of video-based web lessons. Use this lesson towards the end of your Reconstruction unit to engage students in conversations about the implications of how a history is remembered.