- How did President Andrew Johnson interpret the Constitution with respect to restoring the Union after the Civil War?
- Trace the constitutional controversies of Andrew Johnson’s presidency.
- Understand Johnson’s constitutional objections to the Fourteenth Amendment and other elements of Reconstruction.
- Evaluate Johnson’s understanding of the Constitution.
- Handout A: Andrew Johnson and the Civil War Amendments
- Handout B: Johnson’s First Annual Message to Congress, December 1865
To create a context for this lesson, have students complete Constitutional Connection: Slavery and the Constitution.
Have students read Handout A: Andrew Johnson and the Civil War Amendments and answer the questions.
Show the thematic documentary All Other Persons: Slavery, the Constitution, and the Presidency found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmMOvLCCO0c.
Distribute Handout B: Johnson’s First Annual Message to Congress, December 1865. Depending on students’ reading skills, you may wish to:
- Have students analyze each section individually.
- Have students work in pairs to analyze each section.
- Have students work in pairs to analyze one section, and then have students jigsaw into new groups to share their responses.
- Project Handout B and go over all the chart sections together.
Reconvene the class and conduct a large group discussion to answer the questions:
- Why do you think Johnson’s plans for “restoration” failed?
- Were his objections to the forced-ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment legitimate? Why or why not?
- In your opinion, did Johnson understand the Constitution correctly?
Have students analyze the Fourteenth Amendment and write a brief essay with one of the following thesis statements:
- The Fourteenth Amendment radically altered the Constitution.
- The Fourteenth Amendment merely emphasized principles that were already in the Constitution.
Develop a timeline that shows legislation vetoed by President Johnson. For each law, summarize the following:
- name & date of bill
- purpose of bill
- why Johnson vetoed the bill
- further Congressional action, if any
- outcome of the law, if applicable
The End of Slavery and the Reconstruction Amendments
The interests of Northern and Southern states grew increasingly divergent. Eleven states eventually seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. After the Civil War, Congress required that the southern states would approve the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments as a condition of their re-entry into the union. The Thirteenth Amendment banned slavery throughout the United States. The Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to formerly enslaved people and banned states from passing laws that denied the privileges and immunities of citizens, due process, or equal protection of the law. The Fifteenth Amendment extended the right to vote to black men. The Fourteenth Amendment in particular was a dramatic departure from the Founders’ Constitution, and set the stage for dramatic increases in the size, scope, and power of the national government decades later.
Civil War and Reconstruction
Explore the impact the Civil War amendments had on African-Americans during Reconstruction and beyond.
Tenth Period | Reconstruction and Narrative: Amendments and Their Limitations
BRI staff members Kirk Higgins and Rachel Davison Humphries are joined by BRI Teacher Council member Michael Sandstrom and LeeAnna Keith, author of "The Colfax Massacre: The Untold Story of Black Power, White Terror, and the Death of Reconstruction," as they explore meaningful narratives from the Reconstruction time period and their implications today.
Liberty and Equality for African Americans During Reconstruction
The Civil War and Reconstruction period produced significant political, economic, and social transformations in the United States, but for African Americans the progress had mixed results at best. The legacy of the Civil War included the central question of what emancipation meant beyond the destruction of the institution of slavery.