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Write a 3-6 page paper that makes an argument about the historical significance of one of the

chapters from The Cruel Years assigned in the final two weeks of the course (Aug. 22-Aug. 31).

Your paper should have an introduction in which this significance claim serves as the paper’s

thesis statement. This thesis statement should explain as specifically as possible how the source

either 1) supports, 2) adds to, or 3) challenges one of the arguments in the secondary source

assigned on the same day as the primary source.

If writing about the primary source for Aug. 22 (“Georgia Sharecroppers: Slavery’s New

Clothes”), the significance claim would explain how that text supports, adds to, to challenges

arguments in the secondary source (Nakano Glenn, “Blacks and Whites in the South”, Chap. 4 in

Unequal Freedom).

A good test of whether your thesis is sufficiently specific is if it answers a how or why question.

If, for instance, your thesis states that a primary source adds a “personal” or “emotional”

perspective to our understanding of a particular topic in U.S. history, but doesn’t explain how or

why, then it is incomplete because it is not sufficiently specific. It still needs to say how—what

specific stories, told in what specific way—this “personal” story helps us understand history.

To prove your thesis in your paper requires summarizing and analyzing a primary source. It also

requires summarizing at least one argument contained in a secondary source that is useful for

helping place the primary source in a broader historical context. Failure to do both of these

things will make the paper incomplete.

Your paper’s body paragraphs should therefore have three parts: 1) summarize the primary

source in its entirety, 2) summarize an argument in the secondary source, and then 3)

demonstrate how or why the primary source supports, adds to, or challenges the secondary

source argument that you’ve described. You may present each section in any order that you


Each section may be one long paragraph, though it may be helpful to use multiple paragraphs

organized around particular topics. Each body paragraph must begin with a topic sentence that

summarizes the subject of the paragraph. Each body paragraph must also present evidence— in

the form of a quote or information drawn from assigned reading— to support its claims.

Your summary and analysis of the primary source should include the following: the name of the

person (if it is provided), roughly what time period the story covers (if it can be discerned), what

places the story describes, what topics the story covers, and what argument(s) you believe the

author is making. As part of your description, you may want to consider one of these topics: the

role of work in the person’s life; their experience of economic, racial, citizenship, and/ or

gender inequality; their views on what kind of country the U.S. is and their place within it; and

how they’ve responding to adversity. These are potential subjects—you are not required to

cover any of them.

Your summary of the secondary source should include the author’s name, the book’s title, tand

a summary of a key argument in the chapter that is useful for analyzing the primary source.

Your demonstration that the primary source supports, adds to, or challenges an argument in

the secondary source should contrast the two texts.

Your paper should have a short conclusion. The conclusion presumes that you have already

proven your argument, so you don’t have to restate it. Instead, it identifies the potential

significance (or implications) of your argument. Implications can include (but do not have to be

limited to): the value of studying primary sources to understand history, the value of studying

the particular topic you wrote about, questions about 19th century U.S. history deserving

greater study, or the potential relevance of 19th century U.S. history to understanding

something about the present.

Important Note Regarding the Topic from Aug. 24 (Chinese Americans)

It is important to note that the secondary source for Aug. 24 draws from the primary source

assigned for that day. Therefore if you write on this subject, your significance claim must

evaluate how the secondary source author used the primary source, and then explain how your

interpretation of the primary source (including passages the secondary source author did not

use) adds to, supports or challenges the author’s analysis.

Writing Assistance

Resources for thinking about the structure of history papers and developing thesis statements

will be posted with this assignment to the final assignment page on Canvas.

You may share a rough draft of your introduction/ thesis statement with your teaching assistant

sometime during week 5 (Aug. 29-Sept. 2) for critical feedback and support in developing your

paper. You should not expect either the instructor or the TA to be available to provide feedback

on a draft introduction over Labor Day Weekend (Sept. 3-5).

Identifying and Citing Sources

When quoting a text, you must identify in your writing who or what you are quoting—for

example, the text itself, the name and title of a person quoted in the text, the name of an

historical figure referenced in the text, the title and date of a document that runs alongside the

main text, etc. If the meaning of the quote is not obvious, you should analyze and/ or explain

the quote’s meaning and demonstrate how it supports your argument.

All sources for this assignment (including assigned readings) must be cited using footnotes or

endnotes formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style:



Failure to place verbatim text from other sources in quotes, failure to cite outside sources, or

having someone complete your assignment for you are forms of plagiarism and violations of the

student code. Students who are found to have plagiarized any of the answers will receive a zero

for the assignment, and no opportunity to redo the assignment.

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