Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky
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Lesson Plan: Reconstruction in Post-Civil War Kentucky

Suggested Grade Level

Intermediate (lesson can be modified for other grade levels)

This lesson could be taught within a unit on the Civil War, Kentucky history, culture, or government.

Academic Expectations

2.14 Students understand the democratic principles of justice, equality, responsibility, and freedom and apply them to real-life situations.
2.16   Students observe, analyze, and interpret human behaviors, social groupings, and institutions to better understand people and the relationships among individuals and among groups.
2.20   Students understand, analyze, and interpret historical events, conditions, trends, and issues to develop historical perspective.

Program of Studies

    4th Grade:
  • Explore different perspectives and interpretations of Kentucky history by using primary and secondary sources, artifacts, and timelines.
  • Examine cause-and-effect relationships for events in Kentucky history and understand that some events had multiple causes.
  • Recognize how lifestyles and conditions have changed over time in Kentucky.
  • Understand that individuals have rights and responsibilities that change when people assume different roles in different groups.
  • Understand how social institutions in Kentucky’s past and regions of the United States respond to human needs, structure society, and influence behavior.
  • Recognize how tensions and conflict can develop between and among individuals, groups, and institutions.
  • 5th Grade:
  • Explore the interpretive nature (how perceptions of people and passing of time influence accounts of historical events) of the history of the United States using a variety of tools (e.g., primary and secondary sources, data, artifacts).
  • Develop a chronological understanding of the history of the United States and recognize cause-and-effect relationships and multiple causation.
  • Trace change over time in the history of the United States and identify reasons for change.
  • Examine the historical contributions of individuals and groups.

Core Content

  • SS-E-1.1.3
  • SS-E-1.3.1
  • SS-E-1.3.2
  • SS-E-2.3.1
  • SS-E-2.4.1
  • SS-E-5.1.1
  • SS-E-5.1.2
  • SS-E-5.1.3
  • SS-E-5.2.3

Objective of Lesson

  • Students will relate information and make connections regarding how Kentuckians, black and white, were affected economically, socially, politically, and geographically by the Civil War.


Students will play the roles of different individuals being interviewed in a talk-show format. These interviews will illustrate how all aspects of life in Kentucky were affected by the Civil War. Students will choose different classes and types of people to role-play (e.g., black soldier, slave owner, widowed wife or orphaned child of a soldier, etc.). They could also choose well-known historical figures if appropriate. For added impact, this talk show could be staged, videotaped for viewing by other classes, or shown to the students themselves for scoring.

Each student will also create a mini-biography of his or her chosen individual and will have the option of including a drawing or sketch of that person. These biographies and drawings will be compiled in a “program” format, to introduce the guests to the audience who will be watching the talk show.

Suggested Scoring Criteria


4 The student’s interview questions and answers identify at least three different ways lives were affected by the Civil War.
3   Interview questions and answers give only one or two effects.
2   Interview presents unclear post-Civil War concerns and neglects to give details.
1   Interview does not present any correlation to the Civil War and the effects on Kentuckians’ lives.

The teacher should create a separate set of requirements for the written biographies. Each should include a brief but detailed summary about the individual (who, what, when, where, why) and how his or her life was impacted by the Civil War.

Materials Needed for Lesson

  • Video:
    Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky—View the segments that discuss a segregated society, along with sections on public accommodations and education.
  • Web site: archived features— African American Journey, segments “From Slavery to Freedom” and “The First Years of Freedom.”

Description of Lesson

  1. Brainstorm with students the possible problems Kentuckians faced during and immediately following the Civil War.
  2. Allow students access to the video, previously mentioned web site, social studies textbooks, and other appropriate resources.
  3. Lead a class discussion to facilitate the sharing of the information students have gathered regarding the problems faced by Kentuckians. Be sure to include the following themes:

    • the physical destruction caused by the presence and movement of both armies
    • the emotional factors caused by a division of commitments and sympathies between people in the state
    • economic problems
    • fear and uncertainty faced by blacks and by white slave owners

Additional Activity

Be open to suggestions from students and other teachers on how to expand this activity, especially if the suggestions tie in with current events and/or other interests of the students in your classroom.

Teacher Contact

Bonita Pack, John W. Reiley Elementary School, Campbell County,

Living the Story > For Teachers > Reconstruction Lesson Plan