Using Primary Sources in the Classroom:
| Introduction to Reconstruction Unit
Alabama was desolate after four years of Civil War. The social and economic fabric of the state was torn as its citizens looked about them at the material devastation while mourning the loss of as many as 70,000 men killed or disabled. Industry and agriculture were destitute, having suffered invading Union troops and foraging armies on both sides during the conflict, particularly in the northern counties. While the state's Black Belt largely was untouched by the fighting until the very end of the war, its once-rich cotton economy was in shambles as the black slaves upon which its wealth depended were freed with the war's end.
Economic recovery was complicated by social tensions between those who had supported secession and those who had not, and between white Alabamians and newly emancipated African Americans. Intrigues in Montgomery and in Washington further retarded economic recovery and reconciliation as state and national politicians vied over the power to direct the process of Reconstruction. Ultimately, three constitutions were written for Alabama during Reconstruction: the first attempted virtually to reestablish the pre-war status quo (1865), the second to broaden political power to include black freedmen (1868), and the third to restore control to conservative Democrats (1875). Violence and election fraud accompanied the process at every turn.
Go to Lesson 1: "Freedmen's Bureau: Labor Contract or Re-enslavement?"
Go to Lesson 2: "Constitutional Convention, 1875: Photographs as Historical Documents"
Go to Lesson 3: "Alabama Railroads: Maps as Historical Documents"
Alabama Internet Resources
Updated: May 23, 2012