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Reconstruction Primary Sources

Historical documents. What clues can you gather about the time, place, players, and culture?

Trying to Reinstitute Slavery

Mississippi's Black Code (1865)

Legislating White Supremacy

Louisiana's Black Code (1865)

Northern Discrimination

Ohio's Black Code (1804)

Declaring Freedom for All

The Emancipation Proclamation (1863), original and transcript.

The Radical Republicans Move to Protect the Freedmen

Laws in Relation to Freedmen, U.S. Sen. 39th Congress, 2nd Sess. Senate Executive Doc. No. 6.

Pursuing Higher Education

The Wilberforce Alumnal: A Comprehensive Review of the Origin, Development and Present Status of Wilberforce University, 1885. The school was established near Xenia, Ohio, in 1856, by a group of Ohioans that included four black men. The school was named after the famous British abolitionist, William Wilberforce. When the school failed to meet its financial obligations, leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church purchased it in 1863.

Seizing and Spreading Emancipation

Captain Charles B. Wilder explains how fugitive slaves, once escaped to Union lines, liberated fellow slaves and spread the word of freedom deep in Confederate territory.

Attempting to Revert to Days of Bondage

Shortly after a new state constitution abolished slavery in Maryland in 1864, a unionist observer described the efforts of local citizens to nullify the former slaves' freedom

Protesting for True Freedom

In 1863, black men who had been forcibly impressed to perform military labor for the Union army addressed an indignant petition to General Benjamin F. Butler.

The Famous Field Order 15

General William Tecumseh Sherman's Special Field Order 15, 1865.


1868 arguments raised for the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.

Seeking Justice and Equality

At the end of the war, black soldiers stationed near Petersburg, Virginia, wrote to the commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau to protest the suffering of their wives, children, and parents at a settlement on Roanoke Island, North Carolina.

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