The Reconstruction Amendments Facts & Worksheets

The Reconstruction Amendments facts and information activity worksheet pack and fact file. Includes 5 activities aimed at students 11-14 years old (KS3) & 5 activities aimed at students 14-16 year old (GCSE). Great for home study or to use within the classroom environment.

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    • The Union Victory
    • The contents of the Reconstruction Amendments: Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment
    • The people behind the creation of the Reconstruction Amendments
    • The effects of the Reconstruction Amendments

    Key Facts And Information

    Let’s know more about The Reconstruction Amendments!

    • The Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments are collectively referred to as the Reconstruction Amendments. These Amendments were passed to provide a constitutional basis for equality for African-Americans.

    The Union Victory

    • The question of slavery was at the heart of the Civil War.
    • The Union did not want the westward expansion of slavery and desired that the southern states would adopt progressive measures to end it.
    • The Confederacy, on the other hand, had established an economic system from the availability of cheap labour in the form of slavery.

    • Abolition of slavery threatened their wellbeing and was taken as an affront to the sovereignty of the southern states.
    • The Union victory meant that the balance of issues was now in favour of the Union.
    • It was therefore still necessary to resolve the issue of slavery from a federal level.
    • The Confederacy, without a national resolution, would still adopt constitutions that allowed for slavery before their readmission into the Union.
    • In 1863, President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation which was a war manoeuvre and applicable only to the Confederacy.
    • Congress, therefore, passed the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments that provided constitutional safeguards for formerly enslaved.

    Thirteenth Amendment

    • The Thirteenth Amendment was passed by Congress and ratified in 1865.
    • In 1776, slavery was legal in all the thirteen colonies, and most of the founding fathers had enslaved people.
    • Whereas the declaration of independence provided for the liberty and equality of all in the new nation, there was no explicit mention of slavery.
    • At the time of the Civil War, 15 southern and border states had over four million enslaved people.
    • The Emancipation Declaration was issued as a war tactic applied to only the Confederate states rebelling against the Union.
    • 1864 was an election year.
    • Senate passed the proposed Thirteenth Amendment with the required two-thirds majority and forwarded it to the House of Representatives.
    • In the latter house, the Democrats, the majority of whom were southern legislators, did not pass the Amendment.
    • During the election, Lincoln beat the Democrat candidate General McClellan.
    • Top of the Republicans’ agenda was the dicey Thirteenth Amendment.
    • Lincoln was openly in favour of the Amendment, and he lobbied various Congressional representatives to vote for it, promising incentives as the President of the United States.

    • In 1865, the House of Representatives also passed the Amendment by the required two-thirds majority.
    • The Amendment was then forwarded to the state legislatures for ratification.
    • Among the pre-conditions of the Confederate states joining the Union was the ratification of the Amendment in their respective constitution.
    • The Amendment banned slavery and involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime.
    • The Amendment also gave powers to Congress to pass legislation to support its implementation.
    • Thus, the following year, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to address the Black Codes and widespread racial discrimination faced by African-Americans.

    Fourteenth Amendment

    • The Fourteenth Amendment was passed by Congress in 1866 and was ratified in 1868.
    • The southern states were still bent on maintaining the institution of slavery.
    • Therefore, they passed the Black Codes, meant to limit the rights and privileges of the African-Americans.
    • The Black Codes prevented formerly enslaved from travelling far, owning certain types of properties, and instituting legal actions in courts.
    • Further, failure to pay debts would lead to imprisonment and convicts were leased to private businesses.
    • The Civil Rights Act provided for the civil rights of African-Americans, including the right to sue, own property, and engage in fair contractual terms.
    • However, African-Americans were still facing racial discrimination on the political and social front.
    • The omission was deliberate because Congress feared President Andrew Johnson would veto a bill that provided African-Americans with all their civil, social and political rights.
    • However, as Congress feared, Johnson, who was at constant loggerheads with Congress, vetoed the bill. But Congress overrode his veto, and the bill was enacted.
    • The Fourteenth Amendment was introduced by Thaddeus Stevens, a member of the House of Representatives.
    • He is known for his reconstruction efforts and also introduced a motion that attempted to impeach President Andrew Jackson in 1867.
    • The proposed Amendment provided for the definitions and rights of the citizens of the US, for those born or naturalised in the US.
    • It squashed the Dred Scott of 1857 which provided that blacks were not eligible for citizenship.
    • At this point, the balance of political power was in favour of the southern states.
    • By providing the criteria for determining the number of representatives of states depending on the number of residents, the Amendment rectified the imbalance.
    • It amended the 1787 Three-Fifths Compromise negotiated during the Philadelphia Convention.
    • The three-fifths system gave southern states a greater slave count dominance in the House of Representatives, with 44 representatives as opposed to 33 as they would have been without the compromise.
    • It also meant that southern states held control of the Electoral College whose representatives equalled the number of delegates in the Senate and House of Representatives.
    • This guaranteed the South’s control over policy issues concerning slavery.
    • However, over time, the population of the North rapidly grew, and after the Civil War, the balance of power shifted to the northern states and the Republicans.
    • The Amendment also provided that persons who had engaged in the rebellion against the US during the Civil War were banned from taking up civil or military offices.
    • It also declared that debt incurred by the Confederacy to finance the Civil War would not be taken up by the US federal government.
    • The Amendment also empowered Congress to enact enforcement measures for its proper implementation. Congress passed the Amendment, and it was forwarded to the states for ratification.
    • In July 1868, Louisiana and South Carolina ratified the Amendment, bringing the total number of states to approval to 28, which made it an official constitutional Amendment.
    • However, Ohio and New Jersey have withdrawn their ratification, an action not provided for in the Constitution.
    • Southern states were lobbied by Johnson to reject the Amendment, but Congress has required that former rebellious states be subject to military rule until they ratified the three constitutional Amendments.
    • Furthermore, the withdrawals caused Congress to pass a resolution declaring the validity of the Fourteenth Amendment as a part of the federal constitution.

    Fifteenth Amendment

    • The Fifteenth Amendment was passed by Congress in 1869 and was ratified in 1870.
    • It granted universal male suffrage to African-Americans.
    • It also gave Congress the power to enact legislation for the proper implementation of the Amendment.
    • By the end of the year, all former Confederate states were dominated by Republicans, in part due to the voting patterns of African-Americans.
    • The dominance was somewhat short-lived as, by the end of the decade, the southern states had reverted back to the Democrats.
    • Hiram Rhodes Revels from Mississippi was the first African-American to be elected to the US Senate, and 600 other African-Americans served in Congress during the Reconstruction.
    • After the Reconstruction, the Amendments may have ensured African-Americans the right to vote. However, it did not stop the southerners coming up with ways to disenfranchise African-Americans. Taxes and literacy tests were introduced as pre-qualifications to prevent African-Americans from voting.
    • The Voting Rights Act of 1965 enacted under the regime of President Lyndon Johnson, sought to remove the racial barriers that prevented African-Americans from exercising their rights under the Fifteenth Amendment.

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