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Reconstruction in Mississippi, 1865-1876 lesson plan


Prior to the end of the Civil War, President Lincoln had already begun the process of determining how to reconstruct the former Confederate states in order to bring them back into the Union. Upon Lincoln’s death, leading this task of Reconstruction became the responsibility of Vice President Andrew Johnson as he became the 17th president of the United States. The devastated South had to be rebuilt economically, socially, and politically. Citizens and politicians, at the state and national levels, became divided over how to rebuild southern states in their attempts to diminish the old social order as the states are re-admitted back into the Union. The greatest source of controversy was the new social order. Blacks had to adjust to a new way of life and whites had difficulty accepting the new freedom of former slaves. Due to the tremendous changes brought about during this period, Reconstruction is considered one of the most turbulent times in American history and is even considered a second civil war by some.


Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies: 1, 3, and 4.


Grades 7 through 12.


Mississippi History Now article, “Reconstruction in Mississippi”


Overhead projector/pen

Notebook paper

Computer (optional)

Copies of Mississippi Black Codes

Copies of the Bill of Rights


Students will:


identify the following terms:



Freedmen’s Bureau

President Johnson’s plan for Reconstruction

Black Codes

Radical Reconstruction



Ku Klux Klan


determine postwar problems faced by both black and white Mississippians.


analyze the constitutionality of the Black Codes.


summarize the main events of Reconstruction in Mississippi.


The teacher will ask the students the following questions:

How does war affect a region or country? Is there any area in the world today that is recovering from war or civil unrest (Iraq)? What problems are they experiencing (occupation of a foreign military force, political divide between several political factions, new freedoms given to formerly oppressed groups that have brought social unrest)? Have similar circumstances existed in the United States (southern states that seceded from the Union)?

Explain to the students that their own state of Mississippi was in a similar situation after the end of the Civil War. This period of American history is referred to as Reconstruction. Tell the students that they will have an opportunity to study this period in their state’s history over the next several days in class.



Organize the class into groups of two or three. Have the students copy the chart found at the end of this lesson into their notebooks. The chart can be displayed on an overhead transparency or on the chalkboard.


Have the students read the Mississippi History Now article, “Reconstruction in Mississippi,” in order to complete the information on the chart. The students are to determine the problems faced by black and white Mississippians, as well as how each group reacted to this problem if noted in the article.


After the student groups have completed their charts, ask students to volunteer to share information from the charts. You can record the student responses on the teacher-displayed chart as a class discussion is led on the problems faced by both black and white Mississippians.


Organize the students into groups of two or three, or allow them to continue to work in their current groups. Students will need to have copies or access to the Mississippi Black Codes and the Bill of Rights for this portion of the lesson. Have them access the Mississippi Black Codes at the following website: www.usconstitution.com/
. A copy of the Bill of Rights, which can be accessed at the following website: www.billofrights.org. If computer access is limited, furnish students copies of these two documents.


Instruct the student groups to make two columns on a sheet of notebook paper for this portion of the lesson. Instruct the students to list five laws found in the Black Codes in one column on their notebook paper. After they have listed the five laws from the Black Codes, ask students to determine if these laws violated any of the first ten amendments that guarantee individual liberties. If so, have the students list in the other column the amendment violated next to the law that violates it. Students should also explain how the law violates the amendment.


After the students have determined their findings from the Black Codes/Bill of Rights comparison, allow student volunteers to share their findings. The teacher can record the student responses on the chalkboard or on an overhead transparency.



Each student or student group should be assigned one of the following groupings of terms. These terms must be used in a short paragraph concerning Reconstruction. The relationship between these terms must be evident in the paragraph. Allow paragraphs to be shared with the class as a means of re-emphasizing the important points of the historical period known as Reconstruction.


Reconstruction, Freedmen’s Bureau, education

William Sharkey, President Andrew Johnson, Reconstruction

Civil rights, Black Codes, Radical Reconstruction

Hiram Revels, Blanche K. Bruce, Reconstruction

Ku Klux Klan, White Man’s party, Reconstruction

James Alcorn, carpetbaggers, scalawags



Participation in group work.


Completion of paragraph that explains grouping of terms.


Completion of chart and participation in the following class discussion.


Completion of Black Codes/Bill of Rights assignment.



Allow students to research national and state Reconstruction leaders.


Allow students to research the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson.


Have students create a timeline of major events that occurred during Reconstruction.


Allow students to compare current events in Iraq with Mississippi’s experience during Reconstruction.


Compare the social and political experiences of blacks during Reconstruction with their experiences during the modern civil rights movement.

Chart for lesson plan

Download Chart for Reconstruction lesson plan

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