U.S. History, Civil War: A Study in Change

Author: Bob Berkowitz

Author: Robert E. Berkowitz & Hopsicker

Aim/Objectives: The purpose of this research project is to review and extend knowledge of the American Civil War and Reconstruction era.

Audience/Grade Level: 10-12

Activities: Students will be divided into three groups. Each group will focus its research on the social, political or economic perspective of key historical figures. Each student within the group will be assigned one historical personality to research. You will use the attached research questions to help you focus research. Your research notes will be used to prepare oral responses to the questions. The final part of this project requires you to:

1. Share your information in a round-table discussion
2. Take notes while other groups are presenting
3. Answer a question based on all of the notes you take from your research and the oral presentations, and
4. Complete and turn in the “student self-evaluation” sheet.

Assessment: see above


Historical Round Table Groups
Social Political Economic
Nate Turner Lincoln Rockefeller
Harriet Tubman Jefferson Davis Dupont
Alexander Stevens Andrew Johnson Henry Grady
Grand Wizard of KKK John Brown Mellon
Booker T. Washington Susan B. Anthony Samuel Gompers
WEB DuBois Thaddeus Stevens Cyrus McCormick
Plantation Owner Stephen A. Douglas Eli Whitney
Harriet Beecher Stowe Copperheads Carpetbagger
  Frederick Douglas Scalawags

Using library resources, your textbook, and class notes, research the following statements/questions. Your “character” should be prepared to respond to each during the round table discussion.


1. Describe how, if at all, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution affected African Americans in society.
2. Describe the effect of the end of slavery have on poor white Americans in the North, South and West.
3. Describe the status of African American workers in the industrialized North.
4. Describe the social life of slaves improve after emancipation.
5. Explain how the emancipation led to racial tensions. (i.e., rise of the KKK)
6. Compare Brown v. Bd. of Ed. with Plessy V. Ferguson.
7. Explain what WEB DuBois meant when he said, “Their construction was a glorious failure”.
8. Describe the effects of the KKK terrorism on social change.


1. Describe the reaction of the Northern troops when they realized that they were fighting for emancipation rather than the political principle of states rights v. federal government.
2. Describe the reaction of the Southern troops when they realized that the North was fighting to set slaves free vs. “saving the Union”.
3. Discuss the statement, “Lincoln abused the powers of the presidency during the Civil War. (e.g. suspension of the writ of habeas corpus)
4. Compare the roles of African Americans in local, state and national politics after the Civil War.
5. Describe how the political life of slaves improved after emancipation.
6. Explain how emancipation lead to the development of political parties in the South.
7. Describe how the Dred Scott Decision highlighted the division between state and federal governments.
8. Discuss the disadvantages of the lack of political parties in the South during the Civil War.


1. In what ways did the end of slavery affect the economy of the South?
2. Describe the jobs African Americans got once they were emancipated.
3. Discuss how the economic life of slaves improve after emancipation.
4. Discuss how the emancipation led to the industrialization of the South. (i.e., development of textile industry)
5. Explain how the post-Civil War era impacted on the industrialization of the North.
6. Explain why the Greenbacks were opposed to printed money.
7. Describe the effect of inventions such as the reaper and cotton gin on industrialization.
8. Describe the divisions between the Robber barons and the labor movement.

For each of the statements/questions above, you are required to:
Set up charts to help organize your notes and answer the questions.
Complete the charts with specific information.
Prepare for the oral presentation (round-table discussion). Your presentation should focus on each of the five questions that you have researched. Your presentation must include specific examples.
Prepare for the essay test question based on research and round table discussions.

Key Areas to Consider:
As you research your character, consider their relationship to the following key historical events and concepts:
Expanding civil liberties (13th, 14th, 15th Amendments)
National Banking Act
Expansion of the federal government”s powers
Emancipation Proclamation
Writ of Habeas Corpus
Brown v. Board of Education
Plessey v. Ferguson
Ex Parte Merryman
Jim Crow Laws
Civil Rights Acts of 1866
Freedman”s Bureau
Transcontinental Railroad
Political Party System
Radical Republicans
Robber barons


Reform movements have sought to solve many social problems in American society.

Consider the Civil war as a reform movement. Pick three issues from the paired list below. Discuss the controversy and the points of view held by each individual concerning the issue. Be sure to include specific historical information in your answer.

The 14th Amendment
KKK Grand Wizard
Frederick Douglas
Suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus
Abraham Lincoln
Plessey v.Ferguson
WEB Dubois
B. T. Washington
Radical Reconstruction
Andrew Johnson
Thaddeus Stevens
Robber baron
Plantation Owner

Student Self Evaluation Sheet:

What did you enjoy most about this project? Why?

What part of this project did you do the best on? Why?

Which part of this project was most difficult for you to do well on? Why?

What one concept did you find most interesting to learn about? What did you learn about that concept?

If you had to do another project like this, what could you do to get a better result?