High School Chapter 3:

The 13th Amendment: Was Freedom Achieved?


In 1865, the ratification of the 13th Amendment officially ended slavery in the United States. After fighting for their liberty before and during the Civil War, enslaved African Americans saw their dreams of emancipation realized. In the years that followed the end of the war, Virginia and other southern states had to reconfigure their social, economic, and political systems during a period called Reconstruction. During this era, newly freed Black Virginians experienced advancements but also encountered barriers to achieving true equality. This lesson explores  whether African Americans truly “free” following the passage of the 13th Amendment. 



  • VUS.7 The student will apply social science skills to understand the Civil War and Reconstruction eras and their significance as major turning points in American history by:
    • d) evaluating postwar Reconstruction plans presented by key leaders of the Civil War
    • e) evaluating and explaining the political and economic impact of the war and Reconstruction, including the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States
  • VUS.8 The student will apply social science skills to understand how the nation grew and changed from the end of Reconstruction through the early twentieth century by
    • d) analyzing the impact of prejudice and discrimination, including “Jim Crow” laws, the responses of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois, and the practice of eugenics in Virginia


  • NSS-USH.5-12.5 Era 5: Civil War And Reconstruction (1850-1877)  
  • NSS-USH.5-12.9 Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)

Key Hook/Question

Were African Americans truly free following the passage of the 13th Amendment?


The slideshow below can be used in this browser-based format, or downloaded as a presentation or PDF outline. You may also use the button below to make a Google Slides copy in order to adapt or edit the presentation.

Suggestions for Adaptations

All of our lesson plans are designed to be adaptable to your needs. After downloading a copy of these Google Slides, feel free to rearrange their order, pick and choose elements that work best for your students, or add to the content to supplement an area to which you’d like to add extra emphasis. 

Additionally, our activities can be uploaded to any platform (such as Google Classroom) and shared with students directly so that they can complete the activity individually on their own devices. You can also project the lesson plan and have students look on as an entire class as you lead them through it.

  • This lesson can be broken into chunks for small group work, and then students can gather afterwards for a large class discussions. For example: students can complete slides 9-10 in small groups and regroup to discuss as a class before completing slide 11 as a formative assessment.
  • Students examine could selected slides (such as 10, 14 and 17) to complete the primary source activities within them, and then compare results with another group.
  • Student groups could also focus on one clue  (such as slides 9-11) and present their findings to the class. This could help minimize time restraints and address student needs. 
  • This lesson could be introduced with a specific conversation on resistance and what that term means. Slide 5 (and others) could be taken out and formatted to create a “gallery walk” discussion, where you print out the images and place them on your walls to allow students to walk around and make observations about what they see. 
  • SOL suggestions: 
    • This lesson could be introduced with a review on key terms found from the SOL 6E (sectional tensions),  7a (the Civil War), 7b (emancipation proclamation) or 7D (reconstruction plans)
    • Teachers can highlight and review key vocabulary terms and concepts that are important for the SOL. For example: you could discuss throughout the activity Jamestown 1619, the abolitionist movement, Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser, the Civil War, Reconstruction plans, African Americans during the war, Economic impact (7e)

Additional Reading & Resources