America's Reconstruction

About the Project

July 9-29, 2017
University of South Carolina Beaufort
APPLICATION DEADLINE: March 1, 2017
NOTIFICATION DATE: 

The University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) will host a three-week summer institute for 25 k-12 teachers from July 9-29, 2017 as a workshop for educators to learn more about one of the most neglected and misunderstood periods in our nation’s history, and to demonstrate how that history has been influenced by events and personalities originating from the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia. Three broad themes will be examined closely over the course of the institute, including: (1) the prelude to Reconstruction (2) Reconstruction and its Aftermath and (3) Historical Memory and the “Second Reconstruction,” the modern Civil Rights Movement. Each theme will offer unique coverage of the most significant issues, events, historical actors, and watershed moments during Reconstruction.

This institute will guide the teachers through more than a century of American history—from the final years of the cotton kingdom in the South, through the Civil War and Reconstruction, and up to the modern civil rights era. Key questions will be posed each day and Visual essay projects will provide a photographic and period art component to show how images and visual culture were central to Americans’ understanding of contemporary events. Educators will also explore the exploits, writings, and influences of key Reconstruction figures, as well as the ideologies that motivated them. The institute will devote one week each to a close examination and study of each theme. Place is also important for this institute, therefore each theme has been carefully mapped out around key locations to help the teacher scholars gain a better understanding of the issues and to personalize the story. Alternating between lecture and experience, the institute will unfold on St. Helena Island, Port Royal, Mitchellville (on Hilton Head Island), and Charleston, South Carolina, and Sapelo Island, Georgia. To achieve high-level results, USCB has formed a partnership with the City of Beaufort, the historic Penn Center, The Beaufort Museum, and the University Of South Carolina College Of Education. Partners will combine their internal resources and expertise around four goals that:

  1. Prepare teachers in grades k-12 to be highly qualified to teach key themes and content about the Reconstruction Era.
  2. Prepare teachers to use engaging and innovative instructional strategies to motivate students to learn about Reconstruction and other periods of American history.
  3. Prepare teachers to use the tools of historical investigation to deepen and extend their knowledge of Reconstruction and American history.
  4. Develop a collaborative exchange of practice between teachers and historians that improve their work and build a repertoire of high-quality examples and resource materials.

America’s Reconstruction: The Untold Story will offer the three- week summer institute at the USCB historic campus in the heart of the Beaufort Historic District. However, sufficient time will also be spent at other sites in South Carolina and Georgia. Learning about the history of Reconstruction through the lenses of time, space, and place will provide teacher scholars with a real sense of the landscape and the physical environment in which this history occurred. To ensure that our model of faculty development transfers beyond the 2017 institute, this intensive experience will be enhanced by web-based follow-up support that is designed to deepen teacher content knowledge and models effective strategies for historical investigation and increased student learning. This online information center will provide universal access and be used to foster a collaborative exchange of practice.

This three-week experience will make history come alive to the participating teachers by placing rich historical sources in specific and broader context for classroom use. Beaufort County, South Carolina, the unquestioned cradle of Reconstruction, is an ideal location for interpreting the era. Moreover, it is also especially appropriate because of the combination of its remarkable historical buildings and archeological sites and the extensive number of extant diaries and letters of contemporary participants who shed light on the lived experience of Reconstruction in the Lowcountry. As both the birthplace of Reconstruction and of the new South, Beaufort County embodies every facet of Reconstruction politics, problems, and resolutions. No other place in the United States can showcase the number of historic structures and the ability to couple interpretations of every major theme of Reconstruction with the physical point-of-reference. New educational opportunities for freedmen, the role of the federal government through agencies such as the Freedmen’s Bureau, and the political involvement of African Americans are just a few of the national themes of the Reconstruction Era that are writ large in the local experiences and historical sites in Beaufort.

The early occupation of Beaufort by Union troops and the lasting influence of African-American leadership made Beaufort a laboratory for Reconstruction activity. Reconstruction in Beaufort was both unique and representative of national themes. Many buildings of historical importance remain intact. In addition, the Lowcountry of South Carolina is home to many “firsts” occurring during the period of Reconstruction and arguably is the place where Reconstruction policies lasted the longest. It was where the United States military first recruited and trained formerly enslaved people to fight as Union soldiers and where humanitarian and missionary societies worked with the federal government to establish an extensive educational system for formerly enslaved people. The Beaufort area was also where the government experimented with various policies for providing services and land to African Americans and where the first African American towns evolved.

Even though Beaufort County will receive the greater share of attention during the institute, it is impossible to offer this proposed institute and not include an examination of Reconstruction on the coast of Georgia. The Georgia-centered portion of the institute will involve a visit to Sapelo Island, GA where General Sherman’s Field Order 15, which confiscated rebel land and divided it into 40 acre plots for formerly enslaved families, triggered a fierce battle for the land. We will also examine the politics of Georgia freedman Tunis Campbell, who was able to achieve things for freedmen that were inherent in the promise of Reconstruction.

America’s Reconstruction: The Untold Story summer institute will meet Monday through Friday in morning and afternoon sessions. Saturdays will be used for additional travel study. Participants will have time on Wednesday of each week and the late afternoon and evenings to work on their visual essay projects and lesson plans. An important feature of the proposed three-week institute is built-in time for process in a historical setting, so that the teacher scholars can reflect on and share what they learn. A wiki will be used as a collaborative tool where teachers will be able to share thoughts, photos, ideas, and insights. Before the institute begins, teachers will be introduced to each other via the institute web site and will be assigned to reading circles and project groups based on grade levels. Eric Foner’s book Forever Free, Howard Fast’s Freedom Road, and Brent Morris' Yes, Lord, I Know the Road: A Documentary History of African Americans in South Carolina 1526-2008 will be mailed to them in advance. Structure: The institute will be structured around the following Activities: (1) Three well developed weekly themes. (2) Self-managed institute reading circles that incorporates daily discussion (3) Creation and maintenance of an Untold Story web-based database with links to national resources (4) The development of lesson and teaching plans (5) Creation of visual Essay projects (6) Investigation of archival resources (7) Scholarly led sessions (8) Field study trips to key sites in South Carolina and Georgia. A group of regional and national historians will be assembled whose areas of expertise are specific to the three proposed themes. They will each work with teachers to explore key questions and go deeper with the content so that the goals of the institute can be sustained beyond the three week experience. A project advisor will work with the teachers throughout the institute to provide support and guidance for the assigned visual essay projects. Teacher scholars will be expected to fully participate and fully adhere to the code of civility which will be placed in their institute packets and discussed during day one of the institute.