National Museum of African American History and Culture
Make Good the Promises
Reconstruction and Its Legacies
This exhibition focuses on the period following the Civil War—through an African American lens. The United States emerged from the Civil War fundamentally changed. For the first time, slavery did not legally exist within its borders. What this meant was the question before the nation. Would four million newly freed people be truly free to determine their own lives? Would the nation’s founding promises of liberty, equality, and justice be realized for all people, regardless of race? These were the questions of Reconstruction. They remain the challenges of today.
The question now is, Do you mean to make good to us the promises in your constitution?
Reconstruction, the period following the Civil War, was a revolutionary political, social and economic movement that reshaped the nation in profound and lasting ways. It manifested the aspirations and determinations of African Americans, including four million newly freed people, seeking to define themselves as free and equal citizens. Use this Exhibition Guide as a companion for your museum visit and as a keepsake with reflective activities to encourage further learning.