Reconstruction, Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

Teacher: Beth Olesen
Extra Help: Tuesday 3 - 4 PM, Room 149 or by appointment.

African American History

When We Meet: Block B - Monday Period 2, Wednesday Period 1, Friday Period 2

Course Essential Questions
How does race matter today? How is a racial status quo maintained? How is a racial status quo changed? (status quo = the existing (current) state of political and social affairs)

Course Summary

We often think of the Civil War as the end of the heinously unjust institution of slavery. The story we tend to think we know is that the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the U.S., the Union won the war, and then the nation came closer to realizing its founding ideals of liberty and equality. Certainly, it is difficult to see the ruling of slavery as unconstitutional, which the 13th Amendment did in 1865, as anything but good. Still, the beliefs and structures that held slavery in place continued – and some argue, continue today – to hold sway over many people’s lives and choices. Before the 13th Amendment was even ratified into law, southern states had already written their own laws governing racial life that recreated the conditions of slavery as closely as possible. The federal government and Supreme Court argued, for decades, that it was lawful to separate races in all areas of life, including within the federal government. During World War II, whites and blacks were placed into separate units as during the Civil War and WWI. Therefore, we can look at the Civil War as a turning point in the story of race and the United States rather than a point of closure.

In this class, we will seek to understand how and why race has had so much meaning in people’s everyday lives. It is difficult, if not impossible, to grasp how people could have justified the violence and oppression of blacks, and we will seek to unravel what it takes to create and maintain a racial hierarchy, and what it takes to change it. This history is full of both horrifying, systemic racism and of the most striking examples of heroism and principled actions. The goal is to learn lessons from this history that help us to see our own beliefs in a new light. 

Unit 1: Race Today and the Civil War and Reconstruction
EQs: What are civil rights? Did the Civil War end slavery? How were Jim Crow laws and norms first institutionalized?
Project: Reconstruction Podcast

Unit 2: The Rise of Jim Crow: Daily Life
EQs: What is oppression? How is oppression maintained? How can oppression be resisted? 
Central Text: Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody
Project: Jim Crow Art Piece

Unit 3: The Fall of Jim Crow: The Civil Rights Movement
EQs: What are ways to protect and advance civil rights in the U.S.? What makes a social movement successful?
Central Resources: PBS: Eyes on the Prize, PBS: Freedom Riders
Project: Civil Rights Movement Class Website

Please see the full syllabus attached below.