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Posted at 8:28 AM ET, 01/17/2011

Stoddert fifth grader gets big picture on MLK Day

By Bill Turque

Stoddert Elementary School fifth-grader Laurence Zeffler's social studies essay assignment last week was to explain how slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction and Martin Luther King, Jr. are related. His teacher, Steve Dingledine, shared it with me because he thought it captured the spirit of the holiday. I agree:

"Slavery, the civil war, reconstruction and Dr. Martin Luther King junior are all related to each other, because they are all part of a sequence of events that happened in the history of the United States of America. They also have to do with each other, because they are all part of the struggle for civil rights for African-Americans in this country. Slavery caused the civil war. Civil War caused Reconstruction. Because reconstruction was not completed Martin Luther King was motivated to stand up for justice and the rights of African-Americans and equality for the human race.

All of these events and Dr, Martin Luther King junior follow each other on a time line in American history. It began with slavery, the Civil War from 1861-1865, after that came the Reconstruction Era from 1865-1877. At the end of the sequence of these four topics, Dr. Martin Luther King junior fought against discrimination and for the rights of all people.

The struggle for civil rights for African Americans started with the civil war, where the Northerners fought to end slavery. Another part of the struggle is when the northern Army made sure that the former slaves kept their freedom and were granted their rights. Through the votes of lots of American people the government changed and reformed, but the rights were not fully granted.

This sequence of events was based on cause and effect. There is no doubt that Slavery caused people to go to war, make laws and stand up for others. To illustrate my point that it is part of a cause and effect based relationship, - I can tell you that Slavery created an uprising that went to the North and made the Northerners speak out against slavery and then fight against the injustice. This civil war led to the reconstruction era where the northerners wanted to make sure that the African Americans kept their rights and they were not taken away from them.

All in all these reasons show that Slavery, the Civil War, the Reconstruction Era and Dr. Martin Luther King junior is bound together and not altogether different topics. Without slavery none of the other movements or events would have happened in the first place. I personally am very thankful for all the people who were brave enough to fight for justice so that today we have a better environment, but we still have to work on improving human rights."

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By Bill Turque  | January 17, 2011; 8:28 AM ET
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Reading "between the lines" and formal causal links is an essential component of a sound education. While I do not agree with the notion of Reconstruction as an attempt to assist former slaves (it clearly was not), I do applaud the teacher for asking his students to think. Please visit my blog at to read about my approach to the matter.

Posted by: dcproud1 | January 17, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

dcproud, reconstruction policies had many different aspects and angles to them, some of them specifically geared towards providing protection or welfare to the ex-slaves. For example, there were federal troops stationed throughout the south who, at times, protected ex-slaves from violence. On the welfare side, some slaves in Georgia were able to keep their forty acres promised to them by Sherman. And the Freedman's Bureaus existed to help slaves, correct?

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | January 17, 2011 7:00 PM | Report abuse

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