Civil War and Reconstruction (1861-1877)
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Francis Ellen Watkins Harper's career spanned the critical period in American history from abolition to women's suffrage, and she cared deeply about both. Harper frequently centered her writing on political issues and, conversely, incorporated her literary work into her speeches on political topics. She is one of the premier artist…

Item Type: Fiction/Poetry
Date: 1872

This 1864 poster was used to recruit African-American soldiers for the 20th Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops, a Union Army regiment based in New York state. The poster offers the lure of an up-front payment of $375 plus an additional $10 for anyone signing up, but likely more persuasive was the sentiment borne by the stern-looking eagle: "Who would be…

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Item Type: Poster/Print
Date: Circa 1864

In this journalistic sketch, a group of African American soldiers liberates a plantation in eastern North Carolina. The troops were the so-called "African Brigade" composed of black recruits from Massachusetts and newly freed contraband slaves from Union-occupied territories of North Carolina. Like all black troops in the Civil War, the African…

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Item Type: Poster/Print
Date: 1864

Both the author and original date of "Deep River" are unknown, as is usually the case with slave songs. It was first published in a collection entitled Slave Songs of the United States (New York: A. Simpson & Co., 1867). The compilers of this first publication of the African-American spiritual were three white Northerners who heard the songs in…

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Item Type: Music/Song
Date: Circa 1863

The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad is celebrated with a handshake, a bottle of champagne, and the laying of a golden railroad spike in Promontory Point, Utah, on May 10th, 1869. After years of speculation, government backing, corporate scandal, and arduous physical labor, the Union Pacific line met the Southern Pacific, linking the…

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Item Type: Photograph
Date: 1869

This song was originally published as "O! Let My People Go: The Song of the Contrabands." Though it is generally thought of as a spiritual, it was first recorded as sheet music after having been heard as a rallying cry for the ex-slaves at Fort Monroe in Virginia. The original sheet music, available at the Library of Congress website, has the year…

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Item Type: Music/Song
Date: Circa 1862

The Staunton Spectator was a Whig newspaper that opposed Virginia's secession from the Union. Despite their state's subsequent status as the seat of the Confederacy, Virginians, like many residents of the Upper South, remained divided over the issue of secession in the months after South Carolina and the other states of the Deep South declared the…

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Item Type: Fiction/Poetry
Date: 1861

In this activity students read three letters written by African-American soldiers during the Civil War to determine why black soldiers felt compelled to join the Union Army.

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Item Type: Teaching Activity
Date: 2009

Early in the Civil War, on November 7, 1861, a fleet of Union gunboats bombarded the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina. Confederate planters left hastily, ordering their field hands and house servants to accompany them. Most ignored their former masters and remained. The Union government eventually appointed northern antislavery reformers…

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Item Type: Photograph
Date: 1862

This worksheet contains quotations from freedpeople talking about different aspects of their lives, including land ownership, education, family, the law, and klan violence. Students are asked to interpret the statements and rephrase them in their own words. This worksheet can be used with the "Create a Magic Lantern Show" activity.

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Item Type: Worksheet
Date: 1864