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Curriculum-building workshop ‘Teaching Reconstruction’ explores Black history

BRATTLEBORO—Amidst growing attacks on teaching Black history in American schools, Epsilon Spires will host a day-long workshop exploring the period after the Civil War known as Reconstruction, when slavery was abolished and formerly enslaved people were legally integrated into the United States.

The workshop will be held Saturday, March 25, and will be led by facilitators from the Zinn Education Project, who have previously presented a sold-out workshop at Epsilon Spires on teaching climate justice in 2019.

“One reads the truer deeper facts of Reconstruction with a great despair. It is at once so simple and human, and yet so futile,” wrote the famous Black historian W.E.B. Du Bois in his 1935 book Black Reconstruction in America 18601880.

And while the Reconstruction era is rife with rescinded promises of property, protection, and equal rights for formerly enslaved people, it also contains stories and examples that can help us see the possibility of a future defined by racial equity.

This workshop is designed for educators working with middle and high school students, but is open to anyone who would like to learn more about teaching the complex history of the Reconstruction era.

Participants will engage in a series of classroom-friendly activities that both explore the neglected history of this period and ask how the unfulfilled promises of Reconstruction might shape our politics and American history education moving forward.

Workshop activities will be modeled from the Rethinking Schools book Teaching A People’s History of Abolition and the Civil War, which was edited by the late Howard Zinn, the author of the groundbreaking social studies text A People’s History of the United States.

Every participant will receive a copy of the book to take home, as well as lunch catered by a local farm-to-table restaurant.

“Sharing methods for teaching this pivotal moment in our national history is vitally important,” say organizers, as states are moving to restrict what can be included in classroom curricula and what books are available in libraries.

As Du Bois wrote in Black Reconstruction in America nearly a century ago, “One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it paints perfect men and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.”

The workshop begins at 9:30 a.m. and concludes at 3:30 p.m.

Tickets, which include lunch and a copy of Teaching A People’s History of Abolition and the Civil War, are $35 per person and can be purchased at This workshop is made possible through with support by The Sparkplug Foundation.

For more information, contact Executive Director Jamie Mohr at

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Originally published in The Commons issue #706 (Wednesday, March 15, 2023). This story appeared on page A4.

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