Schoolroom: Primary Sources

The web is rich with reliable primary sources. Our goal is to use this page to identify the collections that speak most directly to the Reconstruction experience, and which lend themselves to classroom use.  We can't catch everything though, so if you know of a source we have not listed but think should be listed, please send the title, the url, and a brief description of its contents to us at memphismassaacre@memphis.edu.

General sources on Reconstruction history

After Slavery: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Emancipation Carolinas.  Although this resource focuses on Reconstruction in North and South Carolina, many of the issues faced by residents in those states were faced by the people of West Tennessee too.  Explore a wide selection of lessons, each one of which incorporates primary sources and suggests questions to pose to your students.

Freedmen and Southern Society Project: click on "sample documents" for a wide selection of materials that explore the wartime destruction of slavery and the struggles that subsequently unfolded over the meaning of freedom. A number of the documents on this website speak directly to emancipation and Reconstruction in West Tennessee.

Mapping the Freedmen's Bureau: an interactive digital map that locates the offices of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, the federal agency that was formed by Congress in March 1865 to oversee the transition from slavery to freedom. Use this resource to find out where Freedmen's Bureau offices were located in West Tennessee.

Reconstruction and its Aftermath contains documents located at the Library of Congress.  The sources on this site include materials related to Emancipation Day celebrations, the role of the black church in freedom, and the "exodust" movement when in the late 1870, former slaves throughout the Mississippi Valley grew frustrated with the limitations being placed on their freedom and migrated to Kansas for what they hoped would be a fresh start.

Tennessee4me: Civil War and Reconstruction. This resource brings the Reconstruction story home to Tennessee, addressing through a selection of primary sources some of the central issues up for debate, including who gets to vote, and who gets to decide.

Visualizing Emancipation: an interactive digital map that enables users to track the slow process by which slavery died over the course of the Civil War. Use this resource to see when and how the African-descended people of West Tennessee became free.