Day Three: The Plessy Case

by Tona H - February 4th, 2012

1875 Portrait of PBS Pinchback Last Monday, we suggested that the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case is (yet another) endpoint to Reconstruction. With it, the last practical enforcement of nearly any part of the Radical Republican’s program for black civil rights disappeared and it marked the beginning of a 50-year period of Jim Crow state legislation across the South. This is the “racial nadir,” the codification of racial segregation and legal inferiority of Americans of color.

Please read and bring with you the slender (but packed!) Bedford book on the case.

Note: this photograph is NOT of Homer Plessy (although it shows up all over the web as his portrait), but rather Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, who briefly served as the state’s first non-white governor during the Reconstruction era in 1872-1873. Just to clarify. I have made the same mistake myself.

And here are some additional links and resources we may use in class:
Brief bio of Plessy, New Orleans Public Library, “Notable African Americans from Louisiana”
Plessy and Ferguson: Descendants of a Divisive Supreme Court Decision Unite,” Washington Post 5 June 2011
Plessy v. Ferguson 163 US 537 (1896) at Oyez Project
Plessy v. Ferguson at Our Documents
Related lesson plans, by Karen Wolff from the Yale-New Haven CT Teachers Institute
Constitutional Conflicts: The Road to Brown, on Doug Linder’s site “Exploring Constitutional Law”
Jim Crow Gateway Resources on Plessy v. Ferguson
The Plessy case on
Texas HS Civics online lesson on the case (Oyez, Oyez, Oh Yay! – created by the State Bar of Texas)
3.5 minute resource video on the case, from PBS “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow,” posted on the Teacher’s Domain
Charles Thompson, “Harlan’s Great Dissent,” Kentucky Humanities 1996 (1), posted at the Brandeis School of Law

Day Two: Reconstruction Amendments

by Tona H - January 28th, 2012

Bring the Major Problems to class on Monday, we’ll be looking at the cases and documents in Chapter 7, and at how the addition of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments profoundly changed both the Constitution and the nation.

Links and Resources for Discussion:

Interactive Reconstruction Timeline (Digital History/CHNM)
Frederick Douglass, “What the Black Man Wants,” 1865
Black Codes, 1865-1866
13th Amendment Proposals (Harpers Weekly)
14th Amendment (Harpers Weekly)
15th Amendment (Harpers Weekly)
Reconstruction Amendments (Gilder Lehrman Institute)
Thomas Kelly, 15th Amendment Celebration print, 1870 (Library of Congress/Wikimedia)
Slaughterhouse Cases (Oyez)
Bradwell v. Illinois (Oyez)
Minor v. Happersett (Cornell Law)
The Civil Rights Cases (Oyez)
The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow (PBS)
Douglas Blackmon, Slavery By Another Name

Day One: Meet Each Other, Meet the Constitution

by Tona H - January 23rd, 2012

Today’s agenda and tasks:
Getting acquainted
Agreeing on course outcomes and expectations
Pre-Assessment Exam
Technical Stuff

  • Website, RSS Reader
  • Cell phone text messaging signup
  • Blackboard –> Digital Dropbox
  • Library resources
  • Online research resources
  • Discussion-leader calendar
  • Sidebar links?

Revisiting the Constitution, NPR “We the People” virtual convention, Fall 2011
Get to Know Your Constitution
Planning for Next Week

Course Intro and News

by Tona H - November 26th, 2011

Welcome! This is the website for our Spring 2012 exploration into the history of the US Constitution since 1877, a graduate course for educators in the Worcester Public Schools. I look forward to meeting you in person in January.

The course will meet Mondays from 6-9 on the campus of Worcester State University in Sullivan room 102.


You will be provided the following texts as readings for the course and to keep as professional resources for your own collection. We will not use all of them in their entirety since our course only emphasizes the period since 1877, but hopefully they will also prove valuable to you beyond our coursework this semester.

Akhil Reed Amar, America’s Constitution: A Biography (New York: Random House, 2005). ISBN 978-0812972726

Kermit L. Hall and Timothy S. Heubner, eds., Major Problems in American Constitutional History, 2nd ed (Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2010). ISBN 978-0618543335

Brook Thomas, ed., Plessy v. Ferguson: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford St. Martins, 1997). ISBN 978-03120137434

Waldo E. Martin, Jr., Brown v. Board of Education: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford St. Martins, 1998). ISBN 978-0312111526