It is the summer of 1867 and Black citizens of Alabama must forge new lives as free people. This historical issue guide asks you to consider Reconstruction from the perspective of freedpeople in this era of our state’s history—people who were faced with difficult, and limited, choices after emancipation.
Throughout the years we’ve received many requests from educators for a resource that engages students in the challenging, often overlooked story of Reconstruction. This story is part and parcel of Alabama history. Not only was Reconstruction intended to reintegrate ex-Confederate states including Alabama into the Union, but the decisions made regarding the rights and protections extended to freedpeople affected the 435,000 formerly enslaved people living in Alabama, roughly 45% of the state’s population. Oftentimes history, and especially the history of the Reconstruction, is taught from the perspective of those who governed Reconstruction, not those who lived it.
In this issue guide, we will emphasize the experience of those who lived during Reconstruction, especially the challenging experiences and decisions faced by freedpeople during this era. For educators, our goal is that the information and the deliberative discussion within this guide allow students to not only consider history in a new way but also cultivate new skills. Perhaps our hopes for this resource can be best summed up in the words of one of our contributors, Dr. John Giggie, Director of the University of Alabama’s Summersell Institute:
“In this guide, we are asking you to reconsider not just how we read the history of Reconstruction, but how we teach the history of Reconstruction.”