- How, over time, has the relationship between federal and state government been altered by the Fourteenth Amendment?
- How has this influenced the role of the federal government in U.S. citizens’ everyday lives?
- Students will trace constitutional changes during the period following the Civil War.
- Students will consider the principle of equal justice under the law and analyze efforts to advance equal protection during the era of Reconstruction.
- Declaration of Independence
- Bill of Rights
- Thirteenth Amendment
- Fourteenth Amendment
- Fifteenth Amendment
- Due Process
Depending on students’ level of familiarity with the historical events of Reconstruction, you may wish to assign the context essay, The End of Slavery and the Reconstruction Amendments.
Use Handout A: Opinion Check-In, perhaps in a think-pair-share format, to poll student opinion regarding the principle of equality.
Activity One [20 minutes]
Distribute Handout B: The Tenth Amendment and Reconstruction Amendments, and have students work either individually or in small groups to analyze Amendments 10, 13, 14, and 15. After students have worked through the amendments, reconvene the class to have a few volunteers answer: To what extent and in what ways did the Reconstruction Amendments change the relationship between the state governments and the federal government?
Activity Two [15 minutes]
Distribute Handout C: Court Cases and have students work in small groups to examine how the Supreme Court has interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment in landmark decisions, Slaughterhouse Cases (1873), the Civil Rights Cases (1883), and Gitlow v. New York (1925).
Distribute Handout D: Opinion Double-Check; have students complete the first page individually, then compare their responses to those on their Handout A: Opinion Check-In. Direct students to move on to page 2, and talk through their responses in small groups. Conduct a whole-class discussion for a few students to share their responses to page 2.
Conclude the discussion by asking: How, over time, has the relationship between federal and state government been altered by the Fourteenth Amendment? How has this influenced the role of the federal government in U.S. citizens’ everyday lives?
Have students watch for current events related to the principle of equality and/or the principle of federalism.
The Fourteenth Amendment and Incorporation
To What Extent Did American Principles Become a Reality for African Americans during Reconstruction?
Two scholars debate this question.
Unit 4 Civics Connection: Equality, the Civil War, and Reconstruction
This lesson should be used at the end of the unit to review key events and ideas from the Civil War and Reconstruction Era.
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.
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.