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The Emergence of Black Codes DBQ

90 min
  • Students will examine the ways in which, after emancipation and the Reconstruction Amendments, the legal status of African Americans was different from their experience under the institution of slavery
  • Students will analyze primary source documents by answering comprehension questions to guide them to identify the inconsistencies of the legal status of African Americans in the nineteenth century.

Handout A: Document Packet

  • Virginia Slave Codes: “An Act Concerning Servants and Slaves,” 1705
  • Runaway Slave Ad, 1860
  • Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified December 6, 1865
  • An Act to Confer Civil Rights on Freedmen, and for other Purposes, 1865
  • Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified July 28, 1868
  • Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified February 3, 1870
  • Opinion of the Supreme Court in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896

Students can work individually, in pairs, or in small groups to evaluate the documents in this lesson.

Direct students to the key question for this lesson at the top of Handout A: In what ways did the legal status of African Americans change after emancipation and the Reconstruction Amendments, and in what ways did their experience remain the same as under the institution of slavery? Have students examine Document 1: Virginia Slave Codes: “An Act Concerning Servants and Slaves,” 1705; and Document 2: Runaway Slave Ad, 1860, in Handout A. In these they will identify the legal and personal status of African Americans under the institution of slavery. The first document will define the scope of that legal status by examining the first laws passed to define them. The second will help illustrate this status with a very personal example.

Students will examine the remaining documents in Handout A to evaluate changes and continuities in the nature of the legal and practical status of African Americans. They will read the documents and answer the questions to interpret their main ideas. The teacher should move about the room to confirm that students are carefully examining the evidence and correctly interpreting the documents.

Each student will outline their response to the following prompt: In what ways did the legal status of African Americans change after emancipation and the Reconstruction Amendments, and in what ways did their experience remain the same as under the institution of slavery? The essay must make specific citations to the texts to support each claim made in the essay.

Student will conduct a peer review of the essay outline written by a partner using the DBQ rubric from the College Board as a guide.