Contextualizing Primary Sources

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Formatting requirements: 750-1250 words (approximately 3-5 pages)Double-spaced 12pt font, Arial or Times New Roman 1 inch margins What to write and how to write it:1.Summary: After reading one of the primary sources assigned this semester, write a paragraph summarizing the following information about it. This will be the briefest paragraph in your paper. A good paragraph will contain the following information (Sometimes the answers are not always clear, but do your best):a.Which of the documents will you be writing about?b.Who wrote this document? (The person or group’s name, age, sex, nation/ethnic background, and anything else essential to understanding the document’s creator)c.What was this document originally? (A law, speech, Part of a diary, newspaper report, letter, pamphlet, novel, book, poster, poem, play, or something else.)d.When was this document created, written, produced?e.Where was this document made?f.What was the document for? What was its purpose?2.Context: This is where you will explain the historical context for your primary source. Consult your textbook, American Yawp for more information about the historical period in which your document originated. Most of the documents have dates, but if it’s not obvious use your best judgement. Do not just pick random facts about events happening around the same time as your primary source. Some historical events will be more relevant to your primary source than others. Look for those that have an important relationship to your source. Make sure to explain how your primary source is related to the broader events. (Your job here is to convince me how certain events were related to and why they matter for understanding the primary document under discussion.)The next few paragraphs should use that information to answer the following questions (Again, some questions will be easier to answer or more relevant to your document than others, but try to give thoughtful answers to all of them the best you can.):a.What relevant historical events, movements, changes, conflicts, trends does American Yawp mention were going on at the time this document was created?b.What historical events, movements, changes, conflicts, trends, places does American Yawp mention were going on in/near the place this document was created?c.What historical events, movements, changes, conflicts, trends, does American Yawp mention were happening to the type of person or people who made this document?d.How the answers to questions a, b, and c reflected in what the document says? What about what it doesn’t say?3.Analysis: This should be the substance of your paper. Quoting, paraphrasing, or otherwise using specific pieces of evidence from the document to support your argument, (Look for words, phrases, sentences, etc. that demonstrate your points/arguments) write one or more paragraphs in which you explain:a.Who was the intended audience for the document? b.How might the answer to the preceding question “a” have affected what the document said or left out?c.How did the purpose of the document affect what was recorded/described or not recorded? How did the background of the author/creator influence his/her perspective on the event(s) they wrote about? How can you tell?d.What does this document help you to understand better or what was important about this period or American history more broadly?e.What does the document reveal about the period of American history in which it was made?Note: The most thorough resource for guidance on all things academic history research and writing, used by virtually all historians, is Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, available in many editions. The authoritative work on the scholarly conventions of Chicago-style citation and composition, it covers everything. The essay you should focus on for your paper is the one called “Voting Rights and Economics in the American South” but I have also attached a shorter essay by Wright that I find helpful in clarifying what Wright is up to. He can be challenging in his use of numerical evidence at times (for me at least) and he says some things more clearly in the shorter essay that can get lost in the weeds of the longer one.
Wright lays out his arguments in full in a great book he wrote about this called Sharing the Prize: the Economics of the Civil Rights Revolution. I believe it is available through the Queens College library in both physical and electronic formats. Feel free to consult it as much as you’d like for this paper.

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