Civil War: Who Gets the Vote?

DURATION: One session



The Civil War ended in 1865, but with the ceasefire came a host of new issues for a reconciled nation to solve. An entire slave population was granted citizenship, and questions quickly arose over which rights would come with this new citizenship. Voting became central to this discussion. Who was allowed the right to vote in the United States was a defining issue during Reconstruction, and this issue would remain present on the national political stage for decades to come.

Objectives:  Students will 

  1. Understand the disputed issues central to Reconstruction
  2. Become familiar with the terminology and groups central to these issues.


  • Students will write an exit journal describing the activity in class and be assessed based on their comprehension of the issues discussed and the activity itself.


Session 1
1.   Divide the class into male and female groups. Set the scene. Tell both groups that they are now in control of school rules, they are now members of the school board and allowed to decide five “Rules for School.”
2.   After discussion within their groups, each group will list their five rules, and then, the instructor will take a vote to decide which five get accepted (theoretically).
3.   Then, announce the “catch.” Only the girls can vote.
4.   Take a vote by a show of hands.
5.   After the vote, lead a discussion with the entire class. Discuss which rules were voted into “law.” Did the girls only vote for their rules, or did they allow the boys to have a say as well? Why or why not?
6.   Have the students write a short response about the exercise to turn into the instructor. Ask them to address how it made them feel to have all of the voting power or none of the power. Ask how it made them feel when their rule was accepted or denied.
7.   Have students then access the TN4ME website (Confronting the Modern Era- Getting Fair Share- Women’s Suffrage) to define terms suffrage (voting rights) and discuss with the class what these terms mean in relation to the previous activity.
8.   Have student access the same link to find out which southern state was the first to enfranchise African American men. (Tennessee)
9.    Have the students also find out which amendment gave women voting rights. (19th)
10. Using the TN4ME website discuss the issue and people involved in this discussion in Tennessee.

Extensions:Have students

  • Prepare an oral report on the biography of someone who played an important role during this period of Tennessee history, such as Daniel Boone or Thomas Walker.
  • Write down a storyteller’s version of a Indian  returning with a hunting party and sharing his adventures hunting in what is now Middle Tennessee.
  • Design and create a diorama showing settlers traveling through the Cumberland Gap.
  • Create a poster depicting a long hunter or a Indian ready for a hunt, showing his hunting gear.


Daniel Boone Article in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture -
Cumberland Gap Article in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture -
Thomas Walker Article in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture -
French Lick Article in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture -


Tennessee State Standard
Era 5 - Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)

  • 5.01 Understand the causes, course, and consequences of the Civil War.
  • 5.02 Understand the plans and policies for Reconstruction and subsequent successes and failures.
National Standards:
NSS-USH 5-12.

  • Understands the causes of the Civil War.Understands the course and character of the Civil War and its effects on the American people.
  • Understands how various reconstruction plans succeeded or failed.