8th Grade Toolkit: Reconstruction and Race Relations



Below is a snapshot of what you’ll find in the tool kit. You can use the entire toolkit or pick and choose what works for you.

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Historical Period Covered: Reconstruction
Connecticut Social Studies Framework Indicator: Change, Continuity and Context
Hist 8.2: Classify series of historical events as examples of change and/or continuity.
Recommended length: 5 – 7 40-minute class periods
Pre-requisite knowledge required: Students should already have studied antebellum America and the Civil War.

Compelling Question:

Is the history of race relations in America a story of progress?

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of race relations in the United States as they examine the life of Connecticut native Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett. Bassett broke the color barrier when he attended and graduated from Connecticut’s State Normal School (Central Connecticut State University), and was appointed Minister Resident to Haiti by President Grant. Students will also learn about Rebecca Primus, also from Connecticut, who taught school to newly freed blacks in a rural Maryland village after the Civil War. Adolescent students are concerned about issues of equality and justice. This inquiry gives students an entry point into thinking like historians about Reconstruction and its legacy.

Staging the Question

Snapshot in Time: Post 10 images (provided) detailing African American history leading up to 1870. Students view the images, taking note of the date and if the image shows progress. Next, students respond in writing to the compelling question. As a class, discuss the students’ responses, with attention to the idea of progress and how students determined progress by viewing the images.
Source: 10 images from the Library of Congress

Supporting Question 1 Supporting Question 2 Supporting Question 3
How were members of the African Diaspora civically engaged in local, national, and international contexts? Did race relations improve as a result of the Civil War and Reconstruction? What historic and contemporary examples of change and continuity in race relations exist?
Performance Task
Performance Task
Performance Task
Create a Civic Engagement Map detailing the places, people and civic actions taking place. Write a formal letter explaining whether Bassett’s experience was similar to or different from other African Americans. Write a paragraph explaining whether a selected current event related to race relations is an example of progress.
Featured Sources Featured Sources   Featured Sources
Source A: “Ebenezer Bassett’s Historic Journey,” African American Connecticut Explored
Source B: “Distinguished Colored Men”
Source C: Civic Engagement Map Activity
Source A: Frederick Douglass letter to Ebenezer Bassett
Source B: J.M. Langston letter to William H. Seward, Secretary of State
Source C: Rebecca Primus letter to Family, April 7, 1866
Source A: Rebecca Primus letters to Family, June 2, 1866
Source B: “Poll Finds Most in US Hold Dim View of Race Relations,” New York Times
Source C: Relevant Current Events
Summative Performance Task
ARGUMENT Compose a formal letter to your representative in Congress explaining whether a current event connected to race relations is an example of progress and stating how he or she feels the politician should approach similar issues in Congress.
EXTENSION Working in small groups the students contribute to a class wide, or grade wide, bulletin board or display detailing a timeline of events. The descriptions of the events include an image, brief description and evaluation of the event as a moment of progress or setback. Once complete, students evaluate the display and draw further conclusions related to the compelling question.
Understand Explore the connection between self-segregation in schools and overall school climate issues such as bullying.
Assess Examine the current status of self-segregation in the school based on gender, race, social status.
Act Work with school staff and administration to build interest in and execute a Mix-it-Up at Lunch event.


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