The Things we Didn't Learn About Reconstruction
Greetings fellow Americans! A few days ago I I asked my Twitter friends to help me out in a little experiment. As part of my constant investigation into what we didn't (and currently don't) learn in high school history (and thus, how I might help fill the gaps) I inquired about people's experiences in High School Reconstruction history and what they did not learn. Sure, I would not have expected people to respond that their teachers had covered the era with extraordinary depth and detail...but I'll be damned if I wasn't flabbergasted by the fact that for many of us high school US programs pretty much ignored the whole thing - or at least missed some of the most important themes and points. My US history teacher in high school absolutely blew it wholesale. I mean for real. We learned that Reconstruction was about carpetbaggers and sharecropping and that's about it. C- homie...wherever you are.
Others have clearly had similar experiences. Here are some of the actual Twitter responses - I'll keep it anonymous here, because I did not announce in advance that I would be posting these here...
"Connecting it to the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th Century."
"That Reconstruction extended well beyond the South and 1877 and encompassed continued western expansion, the Indian Wars and reservation policy, and the "race and reunionism" described by David Blight."
"My high school education on this was woefully inadequate. Basically, I was taught sharecropping and a general overview of Jim Crow. I hadn't learned it was a real political movement and hadn't learned how complicated it was."
"Despite being in an ample amount of high school history classes, we never learned anything about reconstruction beyond the compromise of 1876. Took until i was an undergrad to learn anything about it in a class."
"What a shit President Hayes was."
"The Redeemers and the Redemption movement. Explains a lot of what followed for the next century or so."
"Honestly, in a segregated academy, I don't remember being taught anything about it. Learning about the unmitigated violence in college shocked me. So much for heroic redeemers!"
"Native Americans during Reconstruction."
"Certainly didn’t learn in HS, but critical to teach/understand Black militant resistance, Union League, militias. AAs didn’t just hope to be protected by Federal troops."
Speaking to others in person has only reinforced what I have learned on Twitter. Now...I have an advanced class on the Civil War and Reconstruction and I spend a good three months discussing 1865-1877...and I also acknowledge that it would be impossible to do this in a traditional survey course. But come on - surely we can cover Reconstruction in more than one dismissive lesson about sharecropping...as important as that is. So my next Tweet...specifically for teachers: how much class time do you devote to Reconstruction and what are your main points of emphasis?
Comments below are also (as always) welcome.