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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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A Northern Teacher Finds Eager Students and Threatening Neighbors

Edmonia Highgate, the daughter of freed slaves, grew up and was educated in New York. She was part of a wave of northern reformers who traveled south as the Civil War was still ongoing to set up schools for freedpeople, both adults and children. In [...]

A South Carolina Landowner Attempts to Indenture a Free Child

When slavery ended, southern landowners attempted to establish a labor system that would pay freedpeople low wages and keep them under strict control. One method of accomplishing this was through indenture contracts for African-American children who [...]

A Southern Planter Argues that "the Negro Will Not Work"

After the Civil War Confederate leaders and planters argued that their lands, taken (confiscated) by the Union army or abandoned during the war, should be returned to them. Those who wanted freedmen to take over and farm the lands pointed to the [...]

Thaddeus Stevens Calls for Redistribution of Confederate Land

On January 6, 1865, General William T. Sherman issued Special Field Order #15, which gave millions of acres of land along the Atlantic coast to emancipated slaves, in lots of not more than 40 acres per family. In March 1865, Representative Thaddeus [...]

Southern Democrats Declare "a Dead Radical Is Very Harmless"

In 1876, using the Mississippi Plan as their model, the Democratic Party in South Carolina organized a chilling campaign of violence to steal the election for governor. Their strategy, excerpted below, succeeded with the election of former [...]

List of Murdered and Wounded Freedmen, 1868

Led by the self-styled “best men” of the South—planters, generals, lawyers and doctors—terrorist organizations like the White League and the Ku Klux Klan and paramilitary groups organized with the Democratic Party, led a [...]

Freedmen Defend Their School Against a Mob

The majority of schools for freedmen were established and run by freedmen, not by Northern reformers. Despite great logistical challenges—a scattered population, few resources to draw upon—Freedmen’s Bureau agents reported that emancipated [...]

An Ex-Slave Protests Eviction from 'the Promised Land' (short)

In the last months of the Civil War, General William T. Sherman of the Union Army issued Special Field Order Number 15, which set aside more than 400,000 acres of abandoned coastal plantations from South Carolina to Florida for settlement [...]

Active Viewing Worksheet: Dr. Toer's Amazing Magic Lantern Show

This worksheet helps students take notes as they watch the Dr. Toer's documentary on the progress and problems experienced by freed slaves during Reconstruction.

Timeline of Land Redistribution at the End of the Civil War

As the Civil War was drawing to a close, decisions had to be made about what would happen to the newly emancipated slaves and the land and property of the now defeated Confederates. General William T. Sherman, marching his triumphant Union forces [...]