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The Reconstruction Amendments and Their Legacy
Resources and Links

Theme: American Political Thought: The Constitution and American Democratic Institutions
Topic: The Reconstruction Amendments and Their Legacy
Date: January 2005

Annotated Bibliography | 13th Amendment & Abolition of Slavery | 14th Amendment & Bill of Rights | Reconstruction Legacy | Reconstruction - Cultural History | Cases | Websites and Web Resources | Related Archives and Collections | Other

Resources and Links compiled and annotated by Paul D. Marsella, Ph.D. and SALEM in History staff.

Annotated Bibliography

13th Amendment & The Abolition of Slavery

Harris, William C. “After the Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln’s Role in the Ending of Slavery.” North & South 2001 5(1): 42-53. 

“Explores some of President Abraham Lincoln's initiatives after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation and after it was implemented in 1863, including his Ten-Percent Plan and the constitutional amendment to abolish slavery everywhere in the United States.” – American History and Life 

Jones, Howard. “’All We Want is Make Us Free!’” American History 1998 32(6): 22-28, 71. 

“An 1839 mutiny aboard the Spanish ship Amistad in Cuban waters raised fundamental questions about freedom and slavery in the United States and helped to lay the basis for slavery's abolition through the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865.” – American History and Life 

Oates, Stephen B. “The Slaves Freed.” American Heritage 1980 32(1): 74-83. 

“A step-by-step account of President Abraham Lincoln's move toward emancipation. Responding to pressures from radical Republicans, Lincoln agreed to demands that the Civil War result in the eradication of the South's peculiar institution. His role in that effort, from the war's beginning to the passage of the 13th Amendment by Congress in 1865, is covered.” – American History and Life

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14th Amendment & The Bill of Rights

Cortner, Richard C. “The Nationalization of the Bill of Rights: An Overview.” This Constitution 1988 (18): 14-19. 

“Traces how the Supreme Court has slowly and unevenly extended the Bill of Rights through the 14th Amendment by making these rights applicable to the federal government, state governments, and individuals.” – American History & Life 

Kyvig, David E. “Appealing Supreme Court Decisions: Constitutional Amendments as Checks on Judicial Review.” Journal of Supreme Court History 1996 (2): 106-119. 

“The use of constitutional amendments to reverse Supreme Court decisions is rare, but it has been effective in dealing with unpopular court decisions… Seven of the seventeen amendments to the Constitution since the Bill of Rights have been in response to unpopular or incorrect Supreme Court decisions.” – American History and Life 

Stevens, Richard G. “Politics and Liberty in the Constitution.” Teaching Political Science 1986 14(1): 46-51. 

“Examines the US Supreme Court's historical handling of the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment to explore the concept of liberty as found in the Constitution.” – American History and Life 

Bond, James E. No Easy Walk to Freedom: Reconstruction and Ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997. 

Bond examines the debates surrounding the ratification of the 14th amendment to see if the drafters really intended it to serve the function of incorporating the Bill of Rights into the Constitution—thus requiring states to abide by it. Southern states were required to ratify the amendment before they were permitted to rejoin the Union and the debates went on for more than two years. Bond, a former civil rights activist, argues that southern whites thought the amendment would give blacks citizenship, but that they never expected the 14th amendment to be as broadly interpreted as it has been. 

Curtis, Michael Kent. No State Shall Abridge: The 14th Amendment and the Bill of Rights. Durham: Duke University Press, 1986. 

Curtis, an attorney, argues that the 14th amendment grew out of the abolitionist movement and its original intent was the incorporation of the Bill of Rights, as it has been interpreted since the 1930s. 

Maltz, Earl M. Civil Rights, the Constitution and Congress, 1863-69. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1990.  

Maltz examines the writings and debates around the 14th amendment and concludes that the conservative Republicans in Congress greatly influenced the crafting of the amendment and that their intent was to establish a basic set of natural rights. 

Nelson, William E. The Fourteenth Amendment: From Political Principle to Judicial Doctrine. Harvard University Press, 1995. 

A scholarly and thorough study of the origins and constitutional politics involved in the proposal and ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.  

Orth, John V. Due Process of Law: A Brief History. University Press of Kansas, 2003. 

Orth’s book is a readable, concise summary of the development of the concept of due process. This work traces the medieval origins of the concept of due process through contemporary expansion and modification of the concept. 

Richards, David A.J. Conscience and the Constitution: History, Theory and Law of the Reconstruction Amendments. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. 

Using an analysis that combines history, law and political science, Richards argues that the 14th amendment requires the federal government to protect certain inalienable rights and liberties—both those in the Bill of Rights and other unnamed rights. He examines Supreme Court cases decided upon the issue of due process and argues that the equal protection clause should be broadly interpreted.  

Tedford, Thomas L. Freedom of Speech.

 Excellent compilation and explanation of one of the most basic and controversial Constitutional rights. Readable and well organized history, including key free speech cases presented with exceptionally clear analysis. 

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Constitutional Law & The Legacy of
The Reconstruction Amendments

Benedict, Michael Les. The Blessings of Liberty, second edition. Houghton-Mifflin, 2006. 

A concise narrative of the legal and political context of constitutional development in the United States. Ample coverage of important cases. Excellent, informative list of suggested readings. 

Benedict, Michael Les. Sources in American Constitutional History. D. C. Heath, 1996. 

This work includes a clear, theme based chapter chronology of significant Constitutional problems. Benedict allows the reader to focus on key constitutional periods in U. S. history. 

Kyvig, David E., ed. Unintended Consequences of Constitutional Amendment. Athens: U. of Georgia Pr., 2000. 

This edited collection on the unintended consequences of amendments includes articles on the original intent of the 14th amendment, President Clinton’s impeachment trial and the 2000 presidential election. 

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Reconstruction: Cultural History

Clinton, Catherine and Nina Silber. ed.  Divided Houses:  Gender and the Civil War.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 1992.

Part VI: The War Comes Home includes three essays on black and white women in the South during Reconstruction.

Couvares, Francis G. and Martha Saxton, et al. ed. Interpretations of American History:  Patterns & Perspectives.  New York:  The Free Press, 2000.

The first chapter of this collection entitled, “Reconstruction:  Change or Stasis?” includes essays from historians on both sides of the argument.  To what degree was Reconstruction a success?

Edwards, Laura.  Gendered Strife and Confusion:  The Political Culture of Reconstruction.  Urbana:  University of Illinois Press, 1997.

Edwards’ study of Granville, North Carolina provides insight into how political changes in the South affected the lives of ordinary people.  Through her gender and political analysis, she argues that Reconstruction efforts endangered the status of elite white men who viewed all women and black men as dependents.

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Slaughterhouse Cases (1873) 

Hoang Gia Phan. “’A Race So Different’: Chinese Exclusion, The Slaughterhouse Cases, and Plessy v. Ferguson.” Labor History [Great Britain] 2004 45(2): 133-163.

“Supreme Court rulings during the last few decades of the 19th century tended toward a restriction of federal powers in favor of state powers by applying a narrow interpretation of the 13th and 14th Amendments. The rulings in the Slaughterhouse Cases (1873) and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) - two examples where narrow interpretations of the amendments were used by the justices - also served to promote a racialized definition of free labor and citizenship…” – American History and Life 

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) 

Thomas, Brook, ed. Plessy v. Ferguson: A Brief History with Documents. New York: Bedford Books, 1997. 

Includes primary source documents. 

Chesteen, Richard D. “Bibliographical Essay: The Legal Validity of Jim Crow.” Journal of Negro History 1971 54(4): 284-293.

 “The Supreme Court decision of Plessy vs. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), did not establish the Jim Crow system, for that had begun long before the Civil War, but the case did give a legal stamp to the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine and allowed custom to crystallize into law. Summarizes the various secondary sources which have attempted to retell the events that led to this conclusion.” – American History and Life 

Lamb, Charles M. “Legal Foundations of Civil Rights and Pluralism in America.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 1981 (454): 13-25.

 “Addresses the question of legal protections for minorities in the context of the transformation of the concept of equal protection since Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Traces the progression of the equal protection principle with emphasis on three recent affirmative action decisions announced by the Court: University of California Regents v. Bakke (1978), United Steelworkers of America v. Weber (1979), and Fullilove v. Klutznick (1980).” – American History and Life

Medley, Keith Weldon. “The Sad Story of How ‘Separate but Equal’ was Born.” Smithsonian 1994 24(11): 104-117.

 “Black New Orleans shoemaker Homer Adolph Plessy (1862-1925) was arrested in 1892 for entering a ‘whites only’ rail coach. In 1896 the US Supreme Court decided in Plessy v. Ferguson, that states had the right to forcibly segregate people of different races. The lamentable decision enshrined the doctrine of ‘separate but equal.’” – American History and Life 

Thomas, Clarence. “The Virtue of Defeat: Plessy v. Ferguson in Retrospect.” Journal of Supreme Court History 1997 (2): 15-24.

“In 1896, the Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson drew little attention in the American press, although it set the foundation for the eventual legal end of segregation. The case revolved around Homer Plessy, the octoroon arrested for sitting in the ‘whites only’ car on the New Orleans to Covington run of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, his lawyer, Albion Tourgee, author of A Fool's Errand (1879), and justice John Marshall Harlan, the lone dissenter in the decision. Harlan's dissent included the declaration that ‘our Constitution is color-blind,’ words which influenced civil rights cases long after Harlan wrote them.” – American History and Life 

Woodward, C. Vann. “The Birth of Jim Crow.” American Heritage 1964 15(3): 52-55, 100-103. 

“Discusses the Jim Crow laws of 1880's-90's and the Supreme Court's ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson (US, 1896); discusses Albion W. Tourgee's defense of Homer Adolph Plessy.” – American History and Life 

Near v. Minnesota (1931)

 “For the Classroom: Pathway to Judgement: Near v. Minnesota (1931).”This Constitution 1984 (3): 31-35. 

Includes lesson plans relating to the Supreme Court case. 

Friendly, Fred W. Minnesota Rag: The Dramatic Story of the Landmark Supreme Court Case That Gave New Meaning to Freedom of the Press. New York: Random House, 1981. 

In the 1931 case Near v. Minnesota, the Supreme Court determined that a Minnesota law allowing judges to censor or close newspapers was unconstitutional. This verdict was the first time the 14th amendment was interpreted as requiring states to abide by the 1st amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press and expanded the meaning of the due process clause. This is a popular history of the court case, narrated through a local history perspective. 

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

 Martin, Waldo E. Brown v Board of Education: A Brief History with Documents. New York: St. Martins Press, 1998.  

Includes primary source documents.. 

Brown, Leslie and Valk, Anne. “Behind the Veil: Behind Brown.” Magazine of History 2004 18(2): 38-42.

 Includes a lesson plan for teaching Brown v. Board of Education.  

Horton, James Oliver and Moresi, Michele Gates. “Roberts, Plessy and Brown: The Long Hard Struggle Against Segregation.” Magazine of History 2001 15(2): 14-16.

“Examines three court cases that dealt with segregation in American public facilities: one, Roberts v. City of Boston (Massachusetts, 1849), that was rendered before the Civil War; the next, Plessy v. Ferguson (US, 1896), that justified the doctrine of "separate but equal"; and a third, Brown v. Board of Education (US, 1954), that ended legal segregation in public schools.” – American History and Life 

Speer, Hugh W. “The Case of the Century: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.” This Constitution 1987 (14): 24-32.

“Through excerpts from US Supreme Court decisions and oral history interviews, illustrates the changing sensitivity to the issue of race by the Supreme Court. From the wording of the 14th amendment and the now infamous Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decision, to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision reversing Plessy, the court's shifting positions on racial segregation are examined.” – American History and Life 

Loving v. Virginia (1967)

 Newbeck, Phyl. Virginia Hasn't Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving. Carbondale: Southern Illinois U. Pr., 2004. 

“Lawyer Phyl Newbeck describes how the laws banning intermarriage came about, how they were perpetuated, and how they were finally struck down. In addition to detailing the story of the courtship, marriage, and arrest of the Lovings, she covers the growth of antimiscegenation legislation, the subsequent fight to eliminate racially discriminatory practices, and the litigations that continued years after the Supreme Court had ruled on the issue.” – Southern Illinois University Press 

Wallenstein, Peter. “Race, Marriage and the Supreme Court from Pace v. Alabama (1883) to Loving v. Virginia (1967).” Journal of Supreme Court History 1998 (2): 65-86. 

“The Supreme Court ruled on interracial marriages for the first time in Pace v. Alabama (1883) in an opinion by Justice Stephen J. Field, deeming an Alabama law that forbade such a marriage constitutional. Over the next eighty years, the Pace decision stood as precedent in similar cases until the 1960's, when the court addressed the issue in McLaughlin v. Florida (1964). The ruling in that case did not declare interracial marriages legal, however, it simply overturned the convictions of an interracial couple claiming a common law marriage. In Loving v. Virginia (1967), the court finally ruled laws restricting interracial marriages unconstitutional in a unanimous decision by Chief Justice Earl Warren.” – American History and Life 

Board of Regents v. Roth (1972)

VanAlstyne, William. “The Supreme Court Speaks to the Untenured: A Comment on Board of Regents v. Roth and Perry v. Sindermann.” AAUP Bulletin 1972 58(3): 267-278. 

“On 29 June 1972, the Supreme Court handed down its first decisions directed to the procedural rights on untenured faculty. In Board of Regents v. Roth, the Court appeared to hold that untenured faculty members have no constitutional right to any procedural observances in the non-renewal of their appointments. In Perry v. Sindermann, however, the Court agreed unanimously that the technical absence of formal tenure was not conclusive of the faculty member's procedural rights, and that proof of de facto tenure would entitle him to some degree of explanation and opportunity for reconsideration.” – American History and Life 

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Websites and Web Resources

American Bar Association

            Links to a broad range of legal and constitutional themes. 

Closeup Foundation 

This Washington based group is dedicated to helping teachers on all levels in the study and teaching of the Constitution and of government issues 

Education at HarpWeek

This site contains excerpts from Harper’s Weekly from the 1860s and 1870s including editorials, news articles, illustrations, and political cartoons. Specific sections focus on the14th and 15th Amendments.  Provides lessons and simulation games for teachers.


A research link to site for Supreme Court cases. Can be quite helpful, especially if name citation of case is known. 

Constitution of the United States
Government Printing Office

The Government Printing Office supplies federal documents to the American public. From this webpage, you can download PDF versions or purchase hard copies of the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and other federal documents. You can also download copies of more recent Supreme Court decisions on cases relating to the Constitution. 

Looking at Slavery: Going to the Sources
History Now

The December 2004 issue of History Now, an online magazine for history teachers, is devoted to using primary sources to teach about the history of African Americans. Includes articles by prominent historians (including one specifically on the Reconstruction Amendments), lesson plans and primary sources. History Now is published by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York City ( 

Legislative Resources for Teachers
Library of Congress

The THOMAS project of the Library of Congress includes contemporary and historical documents relating to federal legislation. This page, designed for teachers, includes links to primary sources, lesson plans and activities for students. From this page visitors can also search the text of bills, laws, resolutions and Congressional records. 

The Learning Page: We the People
Library of Congress 

This page of the Library of Congress website includes links to primary sources, lesson plans, student activities and online exhibits relating to teaching American government and civics. Of particular relevance are these pages: 

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Site of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the highest Appellate Court in the state. Contains links to various judicial sources. 

The Emancipation Proclamation
National Archives & Records Administration

Digital versions of the original Emancipation Proclamation and related historical context. 

Interactive Constitution
National Constitution Center

What does the U.S. Constitution actually say about contemporary issues? On this website, users can search the Constitution for phrases that relate to specific topics or Supreme Court cases, and how the phrases have been interpreted. The website is based on the book The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution by Linda R. Monk. The Reconstruction Amendments are discussed here:

The History of Jim Crow
PBS: Rise and Fall of Jim Crow 

An educator’s website corresponding with the PBS documentary The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. Includes history essays, lesson plans, an image gallery and connections to literature and geography teaching resources. 

Reconstruction: The Second Civil War
PBS:  Reconstruction: The Second Civil War

An educator’s website corresponding with the PBS American Experience documentary Reconstruction:  The Second Civil War.  Includes primary sources such as photographs, Congressional testimony, sermons, political cartoons, letters, etc. as well as lesson plans and other resources for educators.

Diaries and Letters of Rutherford B. Hayes
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center

This site maintains a searchable data base of his writings including letters revealing Hayes’ views on Reconstruction.

Supreme Court 

Official site maintained by the United States Supreme Court. Valuable general information about the Court. Variety of links to other information sources. 

Landmark Surpreme Court Cases
Supreme Court Historical Society & Street Law, Inc.

This website, co-sponsored by the Supreme Court Historical Society, includes activities, lesson plans, background material and primary sources for teaching about Supreme Court cases, including Plessy v Ferguson and Brown v Board of Education. Also see the “Learning” page of the Supreme Court Historical Society website:, especially “We the Students: Supreme Court Cases for and About Students” ( Both are excellent resources for teachers. 

Documents from Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867
University of Maryland, College Park

This site contains sample documents from several collections of primary sources about emancipation and freedom in the 1960s.

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Related Archives and Collections

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