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Primary Document Assignment: Inequality
and Equality in America Description:
This writing assignment focuses on the
topic of inequality and equality in America between 1865 and the present. It
challenges you to examine the historical documents from the period that
relate to that topic (e.g. the primary sources) and to place those documents
in the context of the secondary sources and lecture material from the course.
The goal, in other words, is to demonstrate your ability to think like a
historian by critically analyzing the types of evidence that historians
utilize to make sense of the past and to answer the questions that interest
To begin this assignment, select at
least three primary sources from the course that offer three different
perspectives on the nature and experience of equality and/or inequality in
the United States. You might choose, for instance, the primary documents that
deal with any of the following or other topics:
You need not pick a single subject, such
as race, but may choose to look at equality and inequality from three
different episodes and perspectives from different time periods that intrigue
you. Your paper should focus on the primary source documents but also draw on
the unit lectures and textbook readings to contextualize those documents.
The learning objectives of this
ability to analyze a piece of historical evidence critically;
ability to use secondary source materials, including the textbook, to
situate such historical evidence within its larger historical context;
ability to articulate your insights in a grammatically correct, formal
appreciate the complexity of intercultural relations in a pluralistic
Your paper needs to contain a clear
thesis statement. That thesis statement should make some claim about the
character of the various American perspectives on inequality and equality in
the United States that you have chosen to examine in your paper.
General Words of Advice:
the documents several times carefully;
the documents’ authors in terms of time period, region, and historical
the authors’ purposes, anticipated audience, their cultural background,
and their explicit or tacit values and positions on such questions as
race, class, religion, nation, and gender;
what can (and can’t) be learned from this document; and
the language of the document, including the nature of its genre (i.e. a
personal letter, a political speech, an autobiography, etc.).
Papers are to be 6-8 double-spaced pages
and must be presented formally according to collegiate conventions. For
example, the upper left-hand corner of the first page should include:
a title to your essay that captures its content. There is no need for an
individual title page.
page numbers in the right upper corner, excepting the first page.
your essay, with the exception of long quotations, which should be
indented and single spaced.
citations for the documents and sources you use. Cite these documents
with footnotes or endnotes. Do not also include a bibliography for this
both spelling and grammar.
Use the Chicago Manual of Style for
citations, except for document reading sets which should simply read in the
footnote: HIS220B, Week 1 Document Set, page number. For any other citations,
please see examples of how to cite a book, article, website, or other
For this paper, you only need to cite the primary document as indicated above
if it is selected from our course readings.
Writing Resource Center:
You have resources at NU to complete
this type of paper. First, feel free to contact me, your instructor, with any
questions you have in advance. Second, please utilize the NU Writing Center,
especially if you need help formulating a thesis, writing topic sentences, or
addressing grammatical and organizational issues. The Writing Center is
available for free to all students and can be accessed at:
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