The Reconstruction Era Primary Sources | Facing History & Ourselves
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The Reconstruction Era Primary Sources

Enrich your teaching on the Reconstruction era with these primary source documents and images.


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At a Glance

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English — US


  • History


  • Democracy & Civic Engagement
  • Human & Civil Rights
  • Racism



This collection features primary sources from our resources on the Reconstruction era and its legacies. We have organized them thematically, moving from an exploration of freedom after Emancipation through reflections on memory and legacy. We’ve also included a selection of secondary sources from leading historians of the Reconstruction Era. 

These sources, which detail the violent and racist history of Reconstruction, are both rich in educational value and carry great potential for harm. For these reasons, we believe strongly that this material needs to take into account students’ emotional and ethical responses to this history and be sequenced in a responsible way. See the "Preparing to Teach" section below for more information.

This collection is designed to be flexible. You can use all of the resources or choose a selection best suited to your classroom. It includes:

  • 32 primary source documents, 19 available in Spanish 
  • 9 secondary source documents
  • 3 primary source images

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before using these primary resources with students, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.

For more information about how to approach teaching with the resources in this collection, we recommend exploring the Preparing to Teach section of our Reconstruction 3-Week Unit, which includes guidance on teaching emotionally challenging content, fostering classroom community, and addressing racist dehumanizing language. We also recommend  familiarizing yourself with this history by reading the context sections for each lesson from the unit.  

In addition, we recommend exploring Facing History’s pedagogical approach for information about how to attend to students’ social-emotional as well as academic needs in the classroom.

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