The Rise and Fall of Reconstruction in Virginia

Lesson 5: Virginia Rejoins the Union

Time Estimated: 1 days



Students will:

  1. Understand the views and attitudes of the South after the Civil War ended
  2. Explain the steps that Virginia had to take to rejoin the Union, including writing a new constitution
  3. Define carpetbagger and explain why carpetbaggers came to Virginia
  4. Discuss voting rights as provided by the 15th amendment and Virginia’s new state Constitution







  1. Read in a social studies textbook about the Radical Republicans and the new Virginia Constitution to build student understanding of vocabulary terms (Radical Republican, carpetbagger, constitution, suffrage).
  2. Complete the worksheet "VA Rebuilds after the Civil War" of key vocabulary terms and political changes in Virginia.
  3. Using primary sources, have students work in small groups or as a whole class, share images of a carpetbagger and black heroes. Use the primary source guides available through the National Archives for instructional support. Visit and
  4. Ask students to write about Reconstruction in Virginia by using information from the day’s lesson, to create a postcard or letter to tell a friend about Virginia’s efforts to rebuild in the South. Write the following prompt on the board or overhead:
    Pretend that you are living in Virginia in 1869. Write to a friend and tell him/her what changes are occurring in your state. Be sure to tell your friend about the political changes and who is trying to help your state rebuild.
  5. Conduct a prewriting discussion:
    • What point of view do you have?
    • How do you think white southerners would react to having the U.S. Army occupy the South to maintain order?
    • How would African Americans react?
    • Do you think that the new constitution is fair? Why or why not?
    • Are you excited and hopeful about the newly elected African Americans from your state?

Daily: Students will summarize the lesson by explaining why Virginia needed to write a new constitution and who helped the South rebuild during Reconstruction.




Use small groups or whole group instruction for evaluating political cartoons and images. For students with below grade level vocabulary, use flashcards to reinforce vocabulary terms or provide cut-and-paste answer for note taking.