Post-Civil War South

Historical content: 
Civil War and Reconstruction
Historical skills: 
Contextualization, Sourcing, Use of evidence



Use the account and source information to answer the question that follows.


Robert Carter was a member of the famous Carter family of Virginia. He moved to Texas in 1883 and was living in San Angelo, Texas, when he was interviewed by the Federal Writer's Project on February 16, 1938. In this passage, he describes his experience after the Civil War.

Carter's testimony to the Federal Writer's Project.
Source text: 

"The home was demolished and old Mrs. Henry was killed in her bed. My father was four years in Stuart's Cavalry in the Southern Army and surrendered at Appomattox. I remember well that I was a small boy in the backyard playing with the little negroes, when grandmother came to the little porch, called the slaves and told them they were free. 'You may take the things from your cabins with you,' she said, 'but the plantation will have to be worked and if you wish to stay, you shall be paid.' Most of the slaves cried but thought if they were free they would have to leave. Every night when the sun would begin to get low and the shadows grow long we would see them slipping back to their cabins. Some who got away would write back, 'Dear Missus, send me money to come home. I want to die on the old plantation.'"

Additional facts related to Carter’s perspective: 

1.    Although Robert Carter is describing events just after the Civil War, this interview was recorded in 1938. 
2.    In his interview, Carter makes it clear that his father and most of his family fought for the South in the Civil War.
3.    After the Civil War, the Freedman’s Bureau assisted many former slaves who were seeking to start a new life in the South.
4.    The first slaves were brought to Virginia in 1619.  

Question: Which 2 of the 4 facts above might cause you to question the reliability of Carter’s account?  Explain your reasoning.

About the Assessment

Like the Unions in Paterson, New Jersey assessment, this question gauges whether students can source and contextualize a document.  Students must first examine an interview about the slaves freed from a plantation, then determine which facts can help them evaluate the interview's reliability.  Strong students should be able to explain how the time elapsed between the interview and the events described (Fact 1) might affect the accuracy of his account.  They should also be able to explain how Carter's family's allegiance to the Confederacy during the Civil War (Fact 2) could have influenced his perspective and affected the information he chose to include.