Study Questions for Reconstruction and the Meaning of Freedom (1865-77)

(From our textbook authors and your professor.)

Frederick Douglass

  1. In this speech to the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, Douglass states that the implementation of some early reconstruction policy "practically enslaves the Negro." What do you think he means by this?
  2. According to Douglass, why was "now" the most opportune moment to press for the right to vote for blacks? What might delays entail? Was he right?
  3. How does Douglass describe the Confederate South? Was he correct in his assessment of southern sentiments toward the federal government?
  4. What did the black man want? What did the black man get under Reconstruction?

Susan B. Anthony and Minor v. Happersett

  1. What was Susan B. Anthony's "crime"?
  2. What case did Anthony make for treating voting as an "inalienable right"?
  3. What did Anthony see as the consequence of denying that the right to vote is intrinsic to citizenship? Is her view prophetic?
  4. Compare the reasoning of Anthony and of Chief Justice Waite on the question of whether the right to vote is one of the "priviledges and immunities" of citizenship. What sorts of evidence do they cite? You may refer to the text of the Fourteenth Amendment on page D-14 in the textbook.
  5. Compare Susan B. Anthony's argument for "equal rights" and Frederick Douglass' demand for "justice." In what ways are they similar? In what ways are they different?
  6. How are the civil rights issues that faced women and black Americans in the mid-19th century similar? How are their situations different?

The Slaughterhouse Cases

  1. On what basis did the Court rule that the Fourteenth Amendment distinguishes between state and federal citizenship?
  2. What sort of rights qualified as the rights of federal citizens? What sort of rights qualified as rights of state citizens? Which set of rights would be more important in the everyday lives of most Americans?
  3. Following the reasoning of the Court, to whom were blacks supposed to appeal in cases involving violations of their civil and political rights? Why might this not be in their best interest?
  4. From a contemporary viewpoint, how do the legal principles set forth in Minor and The Slaughterhouse Cases functionally deprive black Americans of their Constitutional rights?