Historical Background: Many people were inspired by the abolition of slavery to demand things that they had previously considered impossible. This meant that after the Civil War many new social movements emerged and there were some attempts to bring them together, but by 1870 those fighting for justice in different movements remained divided.
The fundamental question for these historical actors was: how can we achieve fuller equality for the people we are fighting for? You will see that the characters felt passionately about women and African Americans, but as you know, if you drill deeper, different interests emerge within each group. Each reformer had to decide: should I work for women’s rights, African Americans’ rights, or both? How does labor and class factor into my goals?
Setting: The year is 1872. You have just arrived at the home of a wealthy philanthropist. He supports many of the social movements that have coalesced in the years following the Civil War and has invited various people active in these movements to his home for a mixer. You may have met some of these people before, but most are strangers to you. You are eager to chat with these folks and learn about how their interests and goals overlap with yours – or don’t. Could some of these people become valued allies? Or will they see you as competing for resources and sympathy? Some might believe that your message and goals could hurt their own chances for success. At this mixer, you must present your own goals and ideas and learn about those of others. Again, there might be important allies at this event. Perhaps the host might even donate money to your cause! Therefore, you want to put your best foot forward and have your pitch ready.
Purpose: We are going to meet many of the people involved in these movements to understand not only what brought them together after the Civil War, but also the conflicts that ultimately kept them apart. You’ll build your awareness of these nuances, as well as practice your research and analysis skills by gleaning information from your primary source based on the example in the Using Primary Sources in Your Research page.
PART I: Find your Person, Analyze your Document, and Write Your Introduction
- FIND YOUR PERSON. You (and each of your classmates) have been randomly or alphabetically assigned the role of a real historical figure – see this page to see their brief bio and a primary source associated with them. Read this information closely in order to “play” them in the Discussion.
- PRIMARY DOCUMENT STUDY. Analyze the primary source associated with your character in their bio to see what persuasive arguments, strategies, or quotes they may have used to further their movement – you’ll put these to use in your elevator pitch!
- To do this: refer to the “Using Your Document for the Reconstruction Mixer outline” on the “Using Primary Sources in Your Research” page to help you glean helpful information and/or relevant quotations from your individual’s primary source.
- Using the “An Example” part of this page as a model, answer each of these questions about your identified primary source.
- Remember, your source may not be directly about your person, but it will be related to their cause. Write out your responses to these questions – they will help you write your introduction and pitch in the next step.
- WRITE YOUR INTRODUCTION AND YOUR PITCH FOR YOUR CAUSE. Write 2-3 paragraphs introducing yourself (as your character) and your cause at the mixer.
- Your introduction should start by sharing about yourself (your character) in the first person, so readers will know who this is, like a quick bio or background (“My name is….and I worked for….in 1912 I ….etc.).
- Next, still in the first person, comes your character’s “elevator pitch” for your cause to your potential benefactor. Briefly tell them why they should support your cause and give you money/help. This is where the information you’ve gleaned from analyzing your primary source should come into play – use your responses, especially to the “Try to Make Sense of it” and “Use it as Historical Evidence” parts, to make a better pitch for your cause.
The entirety of your written post should answer the following questions:
- What are you known for or what is your importance in the Reconstruction?
- What movement(s) are you involved with, and what are their ideals and goals?
- Why is this movement important at this particular time?
- What one short quote(s) embodies your present ethos and goals?
- What important dates, events, accomplishments/defeats are key to understanding your goals and ideas?
- What strengths do you possess and/or difficulties do you face?
PART II: Replies and Learning about other Characters
REPLY to at least two (2) other posts, and NOT to anyone else doing your character. Here, it may be easier for you to step out of character and discuss your characters’ common or separate goals, share whether they might make potential alliances or rivals, and how they each might strategize for support for their cause. While you should reply thoughtfully (i.e., don’t just say “good job” and that sort of comment), your responses to others can be more like a real conversation, so feel free to also ask questions to better understand your classmates’ characters.
In replying to your classmates, consider what your characters might do or say around the other advocates:
- Might they find an ally in another advocate and in that person’s cause? Could they talk about why and how they could work together?
- Whose cause and/or beliefs might be in conflict with theirs, either by competing for similar resources or opposing your goals? How might you strategically circumvent or gain an advantage over them? You can discuss your competing strategies.
- Who worked for both Black rights and women’s rights? Who tried to build an alliance between Black and white workers or farmers? Who connected the struggle for Black rights to a struggle other than women’s or workers’ movements – for example, the fight against war, the struggles of Indians for their land or Cubans for independence? What might you say to these advocates?
- Who can tell you about efforts to form a new third party or the role the Republican Party played in uniting or dividing various social movements? What would your characters’ position be?
We encourage you to have fun with it, and treat the discussion as a learning activity, as opposed to a place to bring your completed work. Keep in mind that your replies can flow logically from your knowledge and research about your character, and don’t need to be overly formal.
Criteria on which you will be graded:
- You’ve integrated something from your individual’s Primary Source into their introduction and/or pitch for their cause.
- Your introduction post answers the bulleted questions above.
- You’ve replied substantially to at least two other classmates about their advocates (that are not your own).
- Your interactions with others are respectful, and you make a good faith effort to answer all timely questions asked of you and contribute to the conversation.
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