1861-1877: Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction 

In the mid-nineteenth century, the United States was experiencing an era of tremendous growth, both economical and territorial. Though the country was growing as one, there continued to be differences rise between the North and the South. The North’s economy was based off well established manufacturing and industry. Contrary, the South’s economy was based off a system of large-scale agriculture, including cash crops such as cotton and tobacco. The labor used for this farming was black slaves brought to America during the slave trade. As time continued, abolitionist movements began to grow in the North, opposing the continuation and spread of slavery into new U.S. territory. Many farmers in the South began to fear their agricultural success was in danger, as the slaves were the backbone of their economy.

As opposition to slavery grew in the North, Southern states started to become unstable. Upon Lincoln’s election in 1860, seven southern states succeeded from the United States. These states included Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. When Lincoln took office in the beginning of 1861, the Confederacy, the states who succeeded, threatened to attack various U.S. military forts. On April 12, the Confederacy opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina and started the Civil War. Following the start of the Civil war, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee joined the Confederacy. 

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As the war continued, it was apparent it would not be solved over night. The call for troops rose as well as casualties. As the Union continued to have an upper-hand in man-power and machinery, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” When the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in 1863, it freed 3.1 million of the nation’s 4 million slaves. 

As the war continued, thousands of freed slaves migrated north and fought for the Union. Though many men lost their lives, they continued to battle until 1865. The Union continued to dominate Confederate forces, causing them to surrender the war on April 9 1865 after exhausting their possibilities for escaping. President Lincoln was assassinated April 14 by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater. The Civil War was officially ended on April 26 as all armies received word of the surrender. 

Following the Civil War, Congress tried to diversify the representative body governing all people throughout the Reconstruction Era. This era gave equality to free African-American men. This included the 14th Amendment, which granted citizenship to former slaves and “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” This gave African-American men the same rights white men had to hold public office, etc. In addition to this, Congress ratified the 15th Amendment declaring that the right to vote cannot be denied on the basis of a male citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” 

Pieces from five books regarding this history and information are on display in Telling A People’s Story

These books include: 

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom. Written by Angela Johnson. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014.

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. Written by Chris Barton. Illustrated by Don Tate. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2015.

Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation. Written by Pat Sherman. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2010.

Going North. Written by Janice N. Harrington. Illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004.

The Great Migration: Journey to the North. Written by Eloise Greenfield. Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. Amistad/Harper Collins, 2011.


Written by Caroline Bastian