Reconstruction Riots

Historical content: 
Civil War and Reconstruction
Historical skills: 
Sourcing

Assessment

Directions: 

Examine the two illustrations on the front page of this newspaper and answer the questions that follow.

Source: 

These illustrations appeared in Harper’s Weekly on May 26, 1866. They depict race riots that took place in Memphis, Tennessee on May 2.

"Scenes in Memphis, Tennessee, during the riot." Alfred R. Waud, 1866.

Question 1:  How might these illustrations be useful as evidence of what happened in the Memphis riots in May 1866?

Question 2:  What about these illustrations make them less useful as evidence of what happened in the Memphis riots in May 1866?

About the Assessment

Like the Slave Quarters assessment, this question requires students to consider the relative strengths and weaknesses of documents as historical evidence.  Students with a sophisticated understanding of how to source a document will be able to explain that these images might be useful because they were contemporary depictions of the riots.  They will also observe, however, that the artist may not have been present at the riots and that this is a rendition drawn either from memory or from others' accounts, making it less useful as evidence of what happened.