Race Relations in America Description

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Primary Document Assignment: Race Relations in America Description

This writing assignment centers on the topic of race relations from the settling of the Americas in 1492 up to the Civil War. Its goal is to challenge you to examine the historical documents from the period that relate to that topic (e.g. the primary sources) and to place those documents in the context of the secondary sources and lecture material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. In short, your task is to demonstrate the 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 us. 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: European or Native perspectives on colonization Anglo American, Asian, Mexican, or Native perspectives on the West Anglo or African American perspectives on slavery You need not pick a single category, such as slavery, but may choose to look at race relations from three different episodes and perspectives in 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. Objectives: The learning objectives of this assignment include: the ability to analyze a piece of historical evidence critically; the ability to use secondary source materials, including the textbook, to situate such historical evidence within its larger historical context; and the ability to articulate your insights in a grammatically correct, formal exposition. Thesis Statement : 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. A thesis statement is another word for an argument you are trying to make to me about the sources you have chosen. A successful paper is not simply listing facts or describing a random selection of sources. As a general rule, it is a good idea to focus on documents that have something in common in order to help you create your argument. General Words of Advice: read the documents several times carefully; identify the documents’ authors in terms of time period, region, and historical context; consider the authors’ purposes, anticipated audience, and their explicit or tacit values and positions on such questions as race, class, religion, nation, and gender; consider what can (and can’t) be learned from this document; and study the language of the document, including the nature of its genre (i.e. a personal letter, a political speech, an autobiography, etc.).

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