Civil War and Reconstruction Programs

In conjunction with the opening of the new permanent exhibit, Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality, and the ongoing commemorations of the 150th anniversaries of the American Civil War and the Reconstruction period, the National Constitution Center will offer various onsite educational programs to engage visitors of all ages with this pivotal era in constitutional history.

The onsite experience will introduce visitors to central topics, including slavery in the Constitution, the Civil War and the role of the federal government, citizenship, the goals of Reconstruction and its successes and failures, key figures of the era, and the legacy of Reconstruction today.

Visitors will:

  • Explore Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality, America’s first exhibit devoted to exploring how constitutional clashes over slavery set the stage for the Civil War, and how the nation transformed the Constitution after the war to more fully embrace the Declaration of Independence’s promise of freedom and equality.
  • Encounter a short, theatrical performance in the 14th Amendment section of Civil War and Reconstruction highlighting Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a key African-American figure from the Reconstruction era.
  • Experience FOURTEEN, a moving theatrical performance that sheds new light on the Reconstruction era and the ratification of the 14th Amendment.
  • Participate in a series of onsite programs, including hands-on document and artifact workshops, engaging educator-led shows, exhibit tours, and reflective conversations.

 

Exhibit Gallery Talk
Main Lobby/Feature Gallery, available daily during regular museum hours

National Constitution Center museum educators will introduce visitors to key concepts presented throughout Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality. The goals of the gallery talk are to introduce visitors to the fundamental concepts to look for when exploring the Civil War and Reconstruction exhibit, including slavery in the Constitution, citizenship, and the goals of Reconstruction.

Exhibit Tour
Feature Gallery, booked based on availability and advanced reservations required
The Center will offer guided tours of Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality, presented by museum educators. The tour will explore American society prior to the Civil War, the events that led to the war, and the challenges, successes, and failures of the Reconstruction period. Visitors will learn more about this tumultuous period in American history as they take a look at several of the unique artifacts and documents on display at the Center.
 

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: The Great Problem to be Solved
Feature Gallery, two times an hour between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, May 9 through Memorial Day Weekend 2019, and available on select dates throughout fall of 2019 and in February 2020

As visitors explore Civil War and Reconstruction, they will encounter a one-actor performance in the 14th Amendment section of the exhibit highlighting Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a key African-American figure from the Reconstruction era. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a staunch abolitionist, suffragist, poet, teacher, writer, and public speaker, speaks out in this 1875 address to the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, outlining the work yet to be done in the cause for African-American freedom. This performance is produced by the National Constitution Center, directed by Walter DeShields, performed by Nastassja Baset Whitman, and designed by Tara Webb and Sara Outing. This production has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

FOURTEEN: A Theatrical Performance
Bank of America Theater, two times a day June 20 – June 26, four times a day June 27 – August 10, and available in fall 2019 and spring 2020.

For a limited production run beginning on June 19 (Juneteenth)—the holiday that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans throughout the Confederate States of America—visitors can experience FOURTEEN, a moving theatrical performance that sheds new light on the Reconstruction era and the ratification of the 14th Amendment. Through dramatic interpretation of original texts, such as Frederick Douglass’s open letter “To My Old Master,” the 30-minute performance will bring to life the leaders, influential figures, and everyday Americans who were central to the era. FOURTEEN: A Theatrical Performance will be performed in the Center’s Bank of America Theater—adjacent to the main exhibit space. This production has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Slavery in All But Name
Feature Gallery, feature program available on select dates

Exploring the “hard history,” this program examines how the Reconstruction efforts fell short following the passage of the 13th Amendment and how many formerly enslaved individuals later ended up incarcerated, their freedom taken away, and once again working without pay. The program will also look at contemporary issues and examine the legacy of the Reconstruction Amendments in society today.

The Road to Freedom: The Story of Slavery in America Program
Main Lobby, available daily at posted times

At this interactive program, visitors will learn about the story of slavery in America, from the period of the Constitution’s signing in 1787 up to the beginning of the American Civil War. The program will examine how the initial clauses and compromises over slavery were built into the original union and how these fractures would eventually become so wide that the nation as it had previously stood ceased to exist.

Examining the Four Harriet’s Program
Main Exhibit, available daily at posted times

Beginning in August: Visitors can explore the lives of four American women—Harriet Robinson Scott, Harriet Tubman, Harriet Jacobs, and Harriet Beecher Stowe—who confronted slavery through literature, lawsuits, and direct action in their efforts to free themselves and others from bondage.

Interactive Constitution Workshops: Reconstruction Amendments
Scheduled for groups upon request

Beginning in the fall: Students will discover how to use the Center’s Interactive Constitution to explore the constitutional history and modern debates of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.

Exhibit Guide Available in the fall: There will be a printed guide to accompany the Civil War and Reconstruction onsite experience, available to all visitors.

Sign up for our email newsletter