Civil War to Civil Rights: Rights

Civil War to Civil Rights: Rights

Dates and Eras: 

  • Reconstruction
  • Jim Crow
  • Civil Rights


Explore how constitutional amendments conflicted with reality for African American people following the Civil War, giving rise to the Civil Rights Movement a century after emancipation. How did people of color fight for equal rights, and in what ways did systems of oppression keep them from achieving rights in reality? 

Historical Context: 

In the days following emancipation, African American people began work to find their place in their new free world. While legal chattel slavery was abolished with the 13th amendment, there were many ways that systemic racism oppressed people of color. Written laws of segregation maintained white supremacy, not allowing African American people to live freely. Throughout history, African American people have actively fought to be included in United States society that promoted exceptional privileges like freedom and equality--ideals that were effectively off-limits to people of color. African American people worked to answer the questions of emancipation. What rights would freedom bring? How would they be achieved?


The 14th Amendment Grants Citizenship: 1868

African American people were still not considered to be official United States citizens until the ratification of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. The 14th Amendment ensured that African American people were now citizens and promised equal protection of them by law.


The 15th Amendment Gives the Vote: 1870

The 15th Amendment gave African American men the right to vote. The Amendment was ratified in 1870 and gave black men full privilege to vote in all elections, local and national. However, some states still prevented black men from voting--enacting poll taxes and literacy tests, for example. Many white people in the United States still desired to maintain control over African American people. Due to these voting barriers, African American men were still effectively prevented from voting.


Jim Crow Separates Society: Late 1800s-Mid-1900s

The African American fight for civil rights would only continue, especially as “Jim Crow” laws were put into place in the late 19th century. These laws demanded that segregation of public facilities be reinforced and as long the facilities were “separate but equal.” Facilities such as schools, bus stops, restrooms, and water fountains were labeled “white only” or “colored only.” The facilities were never equal; white people were always given the cleaner and better funded facilities while black people were given less funded facilities that were often poorly maintained or dirty. 


The Civil Rights Movement: 1950s-1960s

During the Civil Rights Movement, African American people advocated for complete equality in politics and the complete end to segregation. People both black and white enacted several series of demonstrations and protests staged by all age groups. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally required all segregation in all facilities to end immediately



  • Civil War to Civil Rights
  • Emancipation
  • Reconstruction
  • African Americans
  • Segregation

Grade Levels: 

  • 5th - 7th grade
  • 6th - 9th grade


  • USII.3


Suggested Questions: 

  1. Describe what Fred Carter is talking about in the sound clip. How does this clip fit within with the larger historical context of Jim Crow and Civil Rights?

  2. Explain the major points of the Virginia Constitution of 1868. What similarities does the Virginia Constitution of 1868 have to the 14th and 15th amendments?

Suggested Activities: 

  1. Research other ways in which African American people participated in the Civil Rights Movement in Virginia. Have the students create a PowerPoint with their findings. 

  2. Have students write a reflection paragraph about the changes in the Virginia Constitution. How did the 1868 Constitution reshape life in Virginia? Who was affected by the new Constitution? Who was excluded? 

  3. Create a short biography of other three other individuals who served in the 1867-1868 Constitutional Convention in Virginia. A list of delegates can be found here and more information about the convention can be found here.

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