NPS Primary Theme: During Reconstruction, the Federal government pursued a program of political, social, and economic restructuring across the South—including an attempt to accord legal equality and political power to former slaves.

  • NPS Subtheme: Reconstruction became a struggle over the meaning of freedom, with former slaves, former slaveholders and Northerners adopting divergent definitions. The activities of African Americans alone gave substantive meaning to their freedom—in schools, family life, churches, and the political arena.
  • NPS Subtheme: Faced with increasing opposition by white Southerners and some Northerners, the government abandoned efforts for black equality in favor of sectional reconciliation between whites.

NOTE: Please use the comments section below to chronicle your progress with this theme throughout the remaining weeks of the course. Begin by outlining how your group decided to work with the theme (e.g., assigning one theme to one person or dividing themes up between team members) and then outline in detail, at least once each week, the work that you have done toward crafting your three podcast proposals.



8 Responses to Reconstruction

  1. Shawn Daley says:

    Still struggling on this category:

    Received an email from Andrew Johnson National Historic site, which I did appreciate, which essentially confirmed my tangibles for that site, the tickets for the Impeachment, as well as the Pardons that Johnson offered. So on that front, my Andrew Johnson podcast is on track and should be set to go.

    I had a slight reversal with the Natchez materials. After getting in the work on the Johnson family, I struggled in my reviewing of the material this weekend to see how I can tie it to the theme. As such, I think I’m going to revert to the story of Hiram Revels, who was a minister in Natchez before he ran for office and eventually became the first African American US senator. I have stumbled on an interesting story, which is apparently utilized in Constitutional law circles but not in many other places, of how Senate Democrats tried to block his being seated by claiming that he hadn’t been a citizen for 9 years (since African Americans has only “had” citizenship for two years since the 15th Amendment was ratified).

    No contact with Tuskegee. I don’t fault anyone in this process (maybe I should fault myself) but I’m going to manufacture a plan on my own.

    I did muse a bit about how this topic may not get much play from various places, but I’ll reflect on that in my final paper…

  2. Shawn Daley says:

    My high school students would have listed this week as an “Epic Fail” for me with regards to getting my materials done, and I have to take the blame on this.

    My call with Tuskegee, which was supposed to be on Monday morning at 8:30am PST, ended up not happening. They told me last Friday that they were going to call me so I waited, but when they didn’t call I tried to call back with no response. Then when they did call back (much later) I was teaching and couldn’t take the call. This said, I owe it to Tuskegee at this point to take another shot and get a hold of them.

    My work with Andrew Johnson NHS is also problematic, as I have emailed and called (after an initial contact) and haven’t gotten a response now.

    These two are top priorities for me.

    On the positive front, Kathleen Jenkins had sent me a bibliography of texts on William Johnson to work with for the Natchez Park, and I have been eagerly awaiting these from Summit so I can continue to develop that particular podcast.

    The most positive information I received this week though was from the Grant National Historic site, which while not one of the parks that I had attached to this theme nevertheless gave me some great background on Reconstruction that I can use to flesh out my podcasts. Some of what I learned from Pam at Grant NHS:

    a) Grant was briefly a slaveowner — his father in law gave him a slave that he owned very briefly before setting him free. Grant’s convictions about slavery were strong enough, however, that even though it caused him significant friction with his wife’s family, he persisted in working to help African Americans after the war and into the Reconstruction period. It was his concern for the treatment of African Americans that led him to challenge for the Presidency in 1968, because he didn’t see the Johnson Administration as doing the work that it was supposed to be doing. In furthering my conversation with the Andrew Johnson NHS, I’m curious to look a little bit (in the short time I have left) the relationship between Grant and Johnson, and if Johnson acted trying to avoid a run-in with Grant (who many had wanted to run for President even earlier).

    I was also fascinated to know that Grant deeply felt the divide of the war — his father-in-law had asked him to join the South (as Mr. Dent was sympathetic to the South) and Grant refused, although his brother-in-law went. That divided family sense was something that gnawed at Grant during the war’s aftermath and his presidency (his father-in-law would later go to live with him in D.C.), as he wanted to find a way to bring the nation back together after the war. I almost forgot that Grant was President for 8 of the 11 years of Reconstruction (BIG oversight) so I didn’t consider his primacy to it and have to catch up on finding some relevant tie-in information.

    b) Grant made a tour of the South after the war at Johnson’s behest, in order to scope out how Reconstruction was going in the occupied states. He initially found that things were going fine, which is why he grew upset and impatient with the Johnson adminstration which allowed things to get out of hand in the south in the short time that Johnson was in office. Grant would also be upset that Hayes would essentially give up on Reconstruction in 1876, and left the country (for a tour of Europe) after that election (although he does return).

    I don’t want to be a broken record and say I have “work to do” on this theme. However, I have to nail those phone calls by Monday and intend to do so.

  3. Shawn Daley says:

    Very intriguing talk today with Natchez National Historic site…

    What I was initially struck by was the fact that the site has a great relationship with the town of Natchez, in which the NPS and town both feel that even sites not in the park are still available for interpretation/care from NPS. I wanted to contrast this a little to my Andersonville and Fredericksburg conversations, where community-NPS site relations could be (but weren’t at this point) a bit more strained and the NPS was a little more cautious in its relationship. Not so in this case, as both Kathleen Jenkins and David Wyrick both indicated that they had a great relationship with the community.

    Using that however, I was treated (literally) to a seemingly endless list of Reconstruction topics that I could pull from Natchez.

    a) They were excited about my possibly investigating the experiences of the children of William Johnson, whose home/shop is in the Natchez NPS site. William Johnson was a freed slave who was rather successful after becoming a free man. He owned slaves himself, and also sent his children away to be educated in better schools in New Orleans. Kathleen thought that for the Reconstruction topic, it would be interesting to look into the life of one of his daughters, Catherine, who kept a journal while she was a schoolteacher in Freedman schools in the area, or his son Clarence, who became a doctor and was linked to several political figures (including the first African-American US senator, Hiram Revels).

    b) What Kathleen also discussed what that in looking at Natchez as a Reconstruction site, I could approach it from the political angle, examining figures like Revels as well as the process of military occupation of this area, or that I could look more at the social impact of Reconstruction events on the area. I was intrigued by the Clarence story, from what she described, because in doing so I could actually speak to both of the areas (which would be great for the theme).

    c) There were some other stories that could also pop out from there –the site is also home to “Melrose” — the family estate of the McMurran family, who had to sell it off during the war because they could not sustain their lifestyle there anymore. Some intriguing side stories sprout from this — like the McMurran matriarch, after selling off Melrose, trying to continue to keep her lavish ways up and being unable to do so, or the former slaves on the plantation, who would beseech her for aid (even though she was no longer their owner or employer) when the new owner wanted them to be surrender their homes/property (that they had been given by the patriarch before he died.

    d) Hiram Revels, referenced above, was an intriguing story as well because of the political connection and the fact that he would go on to be the President of Alcorn State University. I had been intrigued by this idea when Brandon initially had this theme — as we have this brief moment of African American legislators — who all perform admirably, who are summarily replaced and not to be seen again in the halls of Congress until much later.

    Kathleen and David were great because they linked me to some tangible for the podcasts, and are going to be forwarding some materials my way. I also have the specs to get the journals of William Johnson and his daughter, so I can begin to pursue that avenue if I choose.

    I need to take this information (they were both wells of good information) and add to it in order to get myself a significantly formed podcast plan. Will get crackin’ immediately.

  4. Shawn Daley says:

    Following up with these sites:

    On Tuesday, February 15th, I have a conference call with Park Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins and Chief of Interpretation David Wyrick from Natchez National. I will post my leading questions on Monday and then post my follow up from that conversation on Tuesday.

    Spoke this morning to Kendra Hinkle (who is the Museum Tech) at Andrew Johnson NHS, who is going to work with Jim Smalls and I to craft a plan for a tangible/interpretative piece. They wanted me to supply them with a little more project detail (in process). I’m hoping to have a follow up conversation next week.

    Spoke to Shirley Streeter, Adminstrative Assistant at Tuskegee Institute (she is located specifically at George Washington Carver NHS), who forwarded my information to Tim Sinclair, Park Superintendent (haven’t heard from via email at the present). She also sent me an additional email that she sent to Tim about the project. I’m awaiting response.

  5. Shawn Daley says:

    I want to update this on Saturday-Sunday, after I’ve had a little longer to digest my readings. I feel like the entire Eric Foner collection is on hold for me at various libraries after picking this up on Tuesday (last time I will reference picking this up).

    The angles I’m going to work toward at the moment:

    With Andrew Johnson, I’m really curious about his movement from the National Unity Party platform and his work with Lincoln (enough that Lincoln replaced Hamlin with him) to the President he became. My readings are leaving me with the understanding that he wanted to act somewhat like Andrew Jackson, imperiously, and didn’t get a sense for who his allies were in the Congress. Several sources indicated that moderate Republicans were crafting legislation that Lincoln should have/would have gone for and Johnson simply dismissed. This would lead to the Radical Republicans gaining control in the 1866 mid-term elections and set the stage for Johnson’s various controversies. To tie that to Reconstruction, had Johnson been a little more able to work with the moderates, the complexion of Reconstruction may have been much different, and possibly (though unlikely) more humane to African Americans in the south in the long run. This obviously hits a a political angle.

    I think that the creation of Tuskegee identifies with the main theme the most, and my reading led me to be curious how the state of Alabama came to allow Tuskegee to even exist, as the legislature of Alabama passed law to allow its creation. I was interested to see if that creation story is based in having a Reconstruction government, and to pursue the historical “what if?” — would Tuskegee even have existed if proposed 10-15 years down the road, when Black Codes and a “reconciled” government returned. That said, it seems that Tuskegee exemplifies this need for the African-American community to band together, somewhat separate from the white population, in order to find success and meaning. While this ties to African-American experience in general, I see this as a “social history” form of podcast.

    The Natchez story turns me to the economic side of things, as I want to focus on the impact of the Reconstruction on the McCurran family that lived in Melrose and saw their lifestyle turned upside down by the emancipation and what it did to the economy. While I believe that other themes will focus on what emancipation did to the African American community, I think this theme can touch upon the white experience. I don’t necessarily feel sympathy for families that lose their wealth because they are no longer allowed to have slaves, but I think in chronicling the end of the plantation system as it was known will prove to be a compelling tale. I also think that it will explain some of the bitterness from the south toward the north about the end of their way of life.

  6. Shawn Daley says:

    List for Reconstruction — I’m going with and will live with these sites, although since I just picked this up today I haven’t hashed out themes completely yet. I know all three of these sites are in the South, but I think the Andrew Johnson podcast can address the issues present in the North (in D.C. in particular).

    Andrew Johnson NHS, Tennessee — I would imagine I’d focus on his relationship with the Radical Republicans. One oft-again repeated story on Johnson is how the country would have been so much better off if Lincoln had lived, but I’d like to see if this is more of a myth based on what records show.

    Natchez National Historic Site, Mississippi — NPS actually has a website tying this
    site to Reconstruction, and it was better than Hampton — it is NOT the
    parkway or the trail, so I thought it could still work. What NPS recommended about this site is exploring the experience of the McCurran family who owned the estate, and after the war watched their thriving plantation fall apart. The NPS also says that on the property is the shop of a free black named William Johnson, who was a free black before the war and in his diaries that he left behind, detailed life for blacks in the area.

    Tuskegee Institute NHS, Alabama. Just to clarify again that the focus here is on the Institute, and not the airmen, which I’m reading was built after Reconstruction through a deal with the Alabama legislature. I will use this to talk about African-American survival in the south after Reconstruction ended. I may also try to tie WEB Dubois’ critiques of Reconstruction in here as well.

  7. Pingback: Parks to Illustrate CW150 Themes: A Preliminary List | Interpreting the American Civil War

  8. Brandon Quintel says:

    In preparing for the three podcasts of this topic, i have since gone out and checked out many books relating to reconstruction from both the north/south, slave supporters/non-supporters as well as first hand primary documents written by Andrew Johnson during this time, specifically his papers are from 1864-1865 just to get a first hand account of his mindset, and how it fit in with the rest of the nation.

    i have also listened to many different podcasts, both historically focused as well as genreal themes just to get a feel of how different people set up their podcasts and to see which one fits in with how i think we should do ours. ie release schedule, length, how to get them, quality of sound, perspectives ect..

    The last thing i have done since is i have visited some park websites to get a sense of what they have and have not covered. it is my hopes to cover things that have not really been covered before so that we can bring new and interesting stuff to the table instead of rehashing old stories.

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