America’s vision is described in the Declaration of Independence: “All men (humans) are created equal.” The Reconstruction period after the Civil War produced three critical amendments to the Constitution that extended this vision. They were the 13th banning slavery; the 14th establishing birthright citizenship; and the 15th prohibiting laws that would ban the right to vote based on race, color or previous condition of servitude. However, it would not be until 1920 when the 19th amendment established women’s right to vote that the original vision seemed to be achieved.
In this course we will review the history of the Reconstruction period (1863-1877) and learn about some of the personalities who played major roles that shaped the country during those years. We will look at how African Americans participated in political office in the South for a brief time, only to be suppressed by “Jim Crow” laws, Ku Klux Klan terrorism, and pervasive racism. We will also see how the three critical Constitutional amendments extended the powers of the Federal government. Finally, we will examine how the often-violent conflicts that occurred during Reconstruction continue today.