Syllabus: Modern America—Freedom Dreams in a Multiracial Democracy

Spring 2020 @ SUNY Brockport.

Instructor

Dr. Michael Kramer

Assistant Professor, History Department, College at Brockport, SUNY

Office: Liberal Arts Building (LAB) 319

Office hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays 12-2pm or by appointment

Office Phone: (585) 395-5689

Email: mkramer@brockport.edu

Course Description

“Modern America: Freedom Dreams in a Multiracial Democracy” provides an in-depth exploration of the dramatic history of America since the Civil War. Through interactive, multimedia lectures, readings, discussion, and development of historical thinking and writing skills, students analyze the struggles of diverse communities over wealth, rights, and authority in the United States. How did the historical experiences of a wide range of Americans shape systems of power, patterns of resistance, and socio-political identities during a period that saw the nation’s emergence as a global power? The course develops skills in critical reading, historical analysis, communication, project management, and especially writing effectively.

Learning Goals

The Power of History

By exploring how our world came to be, the study of history fosters the critical knowledge, breadth of perspective, intellectual growth, and communication and problem-solving skills that will help you lead a purposeful life, exercise responsible citizenship, and achieve career success.

Course Learning Goals

  • Develop knowledge of the American past, including factual knowledge but also a sense of existing historical interpretations and debates.
  • Improve skills of articulating a thesis or argument based on evidence and in response to a historical problem or question.
  • Advance in logical sequence principal arguments in defense of a historical thesis.
  • Provide relevant evidence drawn from the evaluation of primary and/or secondary sources that supports the primary arguments in defense of a historical thesis.
  • Evaluate the significance of a historical thesis by relating it to a broader field of historical knowledge such as historiographical debates or rethinking of popular assumptions about the past.
  • Express yourself clearly in writing that forwards a historical analysis.
  • Use disciplinary standards (Chicago Manual of Style) of documentation when referencing historical sources.

Required Materials

Available at Brockport bookstore, online retailers, and on reserve at the library (be sure to purchase or use the proper editions).

  • Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty!: An American History Volume 2 Brief Fifth Edition. New York: WW Norton & Company, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-0393614169. Note: If you purchase a used copy or plan to use a library copy of the textbook, you must purchase InQuizitive from WW Norton. You can do so at the landing page for Give Me Liberty! Digital Resources.
  • Eric Foner, Voices of Freedom: A Documentary History Volume 2 Fifth Edition. WW Norton & Company, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-0393614503.
  • Additional readings on Blackboard.

Evaluation

Students are expected to attend class, participate in discussions, engage critically and creatively with required course materials, and complete all assignments.

Grades breakdown

  • Class attendance and participation                           
  • (show up, add or respond respectfully
  • to a comment by another student
  • or the instructor, listen attentively) = 22%
  • InQuizitives (14 x 2% each) = 28%
  • Writing Assignments (5 x 7% each) = 35%
  • Final Essay (Bringing It All Together Through Thematic Focus) = 15%
  • Extra Credit: Brockport Historian Readings (If B+ or above on essay, raises one-half letter grade)

Rubric

There is a craft to historical interpretation. The assignments will help you approach this craft and continue to improve your practice of it. Your task in each assignment is to develop effective, compelling, evidence-driven arguments informed by historical awareness and thinking. These will often work by applying your judgment and assessment to consider how things connect or contrast to each other: how do different or similar artifacts, documents, quotations, details, facts, and perspectives relate to each other? And most importantly, why? What are the implicit ideas and beliefs behind the evidence you locate and analyze?

Aspire to make your assignments communicate a convincing, compelling, and precise argument. The argument, to succeed, should display close analysis of details found in the evidence. These should be contextualized effectively: what else was happening at the time? How does the evidence relate to the broader framework of its historical moment?

Try to write, edit, and revise to achieve clarity of expression in graceful, stylish, logical, well-reasoned prose.

Evaluation of assignments will be based on the following rubric:

  • (1) Argument – presence of an articulated argument that makes an evidence-based claim and expresses the significance of that claim
  • (2) Evidence – presence of specific evidence from primary sources to support the argument
  • (3) Argumentation – presence of convincingly connection between evidence and argument, which is to say effective explanation of the evidence that links its details to the larger argument and its sub-arguments with logic and precision
  • (4) Contextualization – presence of contextualization, which is to say an accurate portrayal of historical contexts in which evidence appeared
  • (5) Style – presence of logical flow of reasoning and grace of prose, including:
    • (a) an effective introduction that hooks the reader with originality and states the argument of the assignment and its significance
    • (b) clear topic sentences that provide sub-arguments and their significance in relation to the overall argument.
    • (c) effective transitions between paragraphs
    • (d) a compelling conclusion that restates argument and adds a final point
    • (e) accurate phrasing and word choice
    • (f) use of active rather than passive voice sentence constructions

Grading Standards

A-level work is outstanding and reflects a student’s:

  • regular attendance, timely preparation, and on-time submission of assignments
  • thorough understanding of required course material
  • insightful, constructive, respectful and regular participation in class discussion
  • clear, compelling, and well-written assignments
  • credible arguments integrated with relevant evidence in own compelling analysis
  • excellent formatting of assignments and citations
  • academic integrity and honesty

B-level work is good, but with minor problems in one or more areas

C-level work is acceptable, but with minor problems in several areas or major problems in at least one area

D-level work is poor, with major problems in more than one area

E-level work is unacceptable, failing to meet basic course requirements and/or standards of academic integrity/honesty

Academic Dishonesty

Academic dishonesty, particularly in the form of plagiarized assignments (question sheets, essays), will result in failed assignments, possible course failure, official reporting, and potential expulsion from Brockport. The Brockport Academic Honesty policy applies to all work in this course. To be certain about its stipulations, rather than risk severe penalties, consult it on the College website: https://www.brockport.edu/policies/docs/policy_on_student_academic_dishonesty.pdf.

Additional Policies

Attendance

Attendance is mandatory—though students are allowed two “free” absences for the semester.  Special consideration will be given to absences due to serious illness, religious commitment, or family crisis (BE SURE to contact me as soon as you know you will miss a class—preferably before that class—and if possible provide written documentation from a doctor, etc.). Each additional absence (and/or several excused absences) may lower your grade at the instructor’s discretion. Four unexcused absences are grounds for course failure.

Technology in Class

Computer laptops and other devices will be allowed in class so long as they are being used for the class, not for other activities. Professor Kramer reserves the right to ask you to turn off and put away your device if it is distracting others.

Disabilities and Accommodations

As the father of a child with neuroatypicality, Professor Kramer recognizes that students may require to accommodations to learn effectively. In accord with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Brockport Faculty Senate legislation, students with documented disabilities may be entitled to specific accommodations. Brockport’s Office for Students with Disabilities makes this determination. Please phone the Office at (585) 395-5409 or e-mail at osdoffic@brockport.edu to inquire about obtaining an official letter for the instructor detailing any approved accommodations. You are responsible for providing the course instructor with an official letter. Faculty work with the Office for Students with Disabilities to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

Discrimination and Harassment

Sex and gender discrimination, including sexual harassment, are prohibited in educational programs and activities, including classes. Title IX legislation and College policy require the College to provide sex and gender equity in all areas of campus life. If you or someone you know has experienced sex or gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or stalking, we encourage you to seek assistance and to report the incident through resources at https://www.brockport.edu/about/title_ix/index.html. Confidential assistance is available on campus at Hazen Center for Integrated Care and RESTORE. Faculty are NOT confidential under Title IX and will need to share information with the Title IX & College Compliance Officer. For these and other policies governing campus life, please see https://www.brockport.edu/support/policies/student.php.

Emergencies

In case of emergency, the Emergency Alert System at The College at Brockport will be activated.  Students are encouraged to maintain updated contact information using the link on the College’s Emergency Information website, https://www.brockport.edu/support/emergency.  Included on the website is detailed information about the College’s emergency operations plan, classroom emergency preparedness, evacuation procedures, emergency numbers, and safety videos.  In addition, students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Emergency Procedures posted in classrooms, halls, and buildings and all college facilities.

Schedule

UNIT 01—Reconstruction to Progressive Era (1865-1916)

WEEK 01 – Planting a Flag: Getting Started

Thursday 01/23

Planting a Flag: What is Modern? What is America? What is History?

In Class:

  • Welcome
  • Info cards
  • Thinking about Modern America with the famous Iwo Jima flag planting image.

WEEK 02 – 1865-1877: Is Reconstruction Unfinished? America After the Civil War

Monday 01/27

Assignment 01 Due: Syllabus and Course Goals Worksheet Due Sunday midnight

This assignment will help you review the syllabus, which serves as the main map for our course. Your task is to review the syllabus, respond to a few questions, and reflect on your goals for the course.

  1. Review the course description and learning goals. Do you have any questions about the broad sense of the course or the learning goals?
  • Have you purchased or ordered from a library the proper editionsof the required texts for the course? Are you able to access Blackboard? Do you understand when readings are due and what they entail?
  • Are the evaluation criteria and guidelines clear? Which one strikes you as most intriguing, curious, or strange? Quote it specifically and explain why it got your attention.
  • Review the additional course policies. Do you have any questions about them?
  • Review the writing assignments for the course. What does each one ask you to do? Read them over and write a one to two sentence description of what each asks you to do. What is the due date for each assignment? What questions do you have about each assignment?
  • This course covers the end of the Civil War to present-day America. Which era are you most interested in and why? Write one to two sentences.
  • This course covers a few key themes, including the question of what makes modern American modern (and if it is, indeed modern as you come to understand the term), what a multiracial, multicultural democracy entails, and other key arguments and interpretations. Which theme in American history since the Civil War are you most interested to understand better? Why? Write one to two sentences.
  • Skim the table of contents of Eric Foner’s book, Voices of Freedom (not Give Me Liberty!). Which document’s title grabs your attention the most? Why? Write one to two sentenecs to explain.
  • What other questions do you have about the course? Any information I should know to help you succeed?

Tuesday 01/28

Freedom Dreams in the “Composite Nation”

Required:

  • Listen to or read Dr. Kramer’s “What Are We Up To This Week?” weekly audio “podcast” for the course.
  • Frederick Douglass, “Composite Nation” (1869), Voices of Freedom, Ch. 15, No. 100

In Class:

  • Discussing “Composite Nation.”
    • Questions to consider:
      • When was Douglass speaking?
      • What was going on in the US at that time?
      • What was going on just before that time?
      • What was to happen in the coming decades?
      • What matters to him the most in your reading of the speech?
      • To whom is he speaking?
      • With whom do you think Douglass is arguing or disagreeing?
      • What are the underlying assumptions guiding his ideas and statements?
      • What do you not understand? What does not quite make sense to you yet in the speech? Often these are great places to start!
  • Syllabus and expectations review

Thursday 01/30

What Was Reconstruction? Is it Over or Still Going On?

Required:

  • Give Me Liberty!, Ch. 15 “What Is Freedom?”: Reconstruction, 1865-1877
  • Voices of Freedom, Ch. 15
  • InQuizitive for Ch. 15
  • Optional Brockport Historian Reading: John Daly, “The Southern Civil War 1865-1877:  When Did the Civil War End?” (unpublished talk)

In Class:

  • Reconstruction Lecture
  • Discussion of (1) “Petition of Committee on Behalf of the Freedmen to Andrew Johnson”; (2) Stanton, “Home Life”

WEEK 03 – 1877-1890: America’s Gilded Age

Monday 02/03

Assignment 02 Due: “Composite Nation” document analysis

Document analysis—annotating, quoting, paraphrasing, questioning, contextualizing, and interpreting

This assignment helps you continue to improve your skills of annotating, quoting, paraphrasing, questioning, contextualizing, and interpretinghistorical evidence. These are the building blocks of historical analysis.

Here’s a model of a paragraph from Eric Foner’s writing in Give Me Liberty! He doesn’t write every paragraph like this. Other paragraphs do different things: some try to communicate his overarching argument, some are just informational, some transition from one section to another, some end with a quote that Foner believes really brings his point home, but some paragraphs are structured in just the way I am asking you to practice writing yours. For instance, notice how on page 842, Foner has a strong topic sentence. He sets up his quotation, contextualizes it, and then offers an interpretation as to its significance:

By the eve of World War II, civil liberties had assumed a central place in the New Deal understanding of freedom. In 1939, Attorney General Frank Murphy established a Civil Liberties Unit in the Department of Justice. “For the first time in our history,” Murphy wrote the president, “the full weight of the Department will be thrown behind the effort to preserve in this country the blessings of liberty.” Meanwhile, the same Supreme Court that in 1937 relinquished its role as a judge of economic legislation moved to expand its authority over civil liberties. The justices insisted that constitutional guarantees of free thought and expression were essential to “nearly every other form of freedom” and therefore deserved special protection page 841 by the courts. Thus, civil liberties replaced liberty of contract as the judicial foundation of freedom. In 1937, the Court overturned on free speech grounds the conviction of Angelo Herndon, a Communist organizer jailed in Georgia for “inciting insurrection.” Three years later, it invalidated an Alabama law that prohibited picketing in labor disputes. Since 1937, the large majority of state and national laws overturned by the courts have been those that infringe on civil liberties, not on the property rights of business.

Directions

In your assignment, use the following numbering system to respond. You should write your assignment in Microsoft Word or equivalent word processing application. Be sure to save often as you work on the assignment so you do not lose your work. 

1. Annotate “Composite Nation.”

Make three annotations on what you think are the three most important parts of “Composite Nation.” You can circle something, underline it, make an arrow, make a comment, or whatever moves you to annotate. If you do not wish to mark up your book, take photos or make photocopies of the document pages and mark up those. When you complete the three annotations in your book, take a picture or photocopy your three annotations (if you are working with a copied version you can just use that one). Create a pdf file or print out your annotated pages and upload them to blackboard or hand them in during class. Don’t get bogged down in the technical part, however; focus on the history part.

2. Pick out what you think is the most important sentence in the document. 

Write it down word for word on your assignment. It can be one of your annotations (most likely) or maybe you discovered another sentence you think is the most important one.

3. Identify the speaker/writer.

Write out your quotation. In addition to your citation (next task), you must identify (A) the speaker and (b) from where the quote comes as part of the sentence itself.

For instance, you might write: In his 1869 speech, “Composite Nation,” Frederick Douglass said, “There are such things in the world as human rights. They rest upon no conventional foundation, but are external, universal, and indestructible. Among these, is the right of locomotion; the right of migration” (Citation–see #4).

4. Cite it.

Once again, practice making a citation using the Chicago Manual of Style guidelines. Write down your citation as what would appear in a footnote or endnote. Getting citation style accurate and consistent is important, but also remember that the most important thing is to cite, even if you do not get all the precise rules correct. Fortunately, your amazing librarians at Brockport have assembled a useful guide for scholarly citation right here http://library.brockport.edu/citing. And you can look up specific rules of Chicago style here: http://library.brockport.edu/citing/chicago.

5. Now try to paraphrase the quote you selected.

Which is to say, try to put its words into your own words. Don’t plagiarize, which means taking Douglass’s language as your own; rather see if you can find new language to describe the sentence from “Composite Nation.”  Write down your paraphrase below your written-out quotation from Douglass. You should try to do so in one sentence, but two is ok. Not more than two sentences, please.

6. Now frame a why question.

What is the historical question you wish to ask about this quotation? Try to think about something that drew you to it, made you curious about it? Try starting your question with “why.” For instance, in the Foner paragraph quoted above, why did Attorney General Frank Murphy frame the use of the Justice Department’s power in 1939 around the issue of “liberty”?

7. Now frame a causal what question.

What causes something to happen? This is a key historical question. Try to frame a causal what question for your quotation. What caused Douglass to say what he said in the speech? What, if anything, did the content of the quotation cause? For instance, in the case of the Foner example, what caused the shifts toward more active uses of the government to expand civil liberties? What, in turn, did the shift in uses of state and legal power cause to happen with civil liberties in the US after the 1930s?

8. Context: change and continuity. 

What was happening around the time Douglass wrote this piece that connects to Douglass’s words? Is there something similar? Different? Something Douglass wrote in response to consciously? Was there something his words connected to that maybe even he did not realize connected? What is the context in which your selected sentence from Douglass matters? Write down the context (you can write a complete sentence or just a few phrases). Aim for some notes or one sentence, but two sentences is ok here. Not more than two sentences, please. Consider what was changing and what stayed the same (continuity) in the historical moment Douglass gave his speech (the late 1860s).

9. OK, now the most important step, interpret.

Add one more sentence that answers this question: why did you think this quotation was important or significant historically, in the time in which it was written? Try to locate the quotation in what we have studied in class so far. To what does the sentence connect? Does it contrast to anything from this week’s readings or lecture? Try to come up with an explanation that responds to one of your questions framed above. Why does the quotation you identified matter to the time in which it was written? See if you can do this in one complete sentence. Think about using explanatory words that offer explanation or comparison such as “because,” “while.” Help us see something you are seeing in the quotation that matters historically.

10. Write a topic sentence.

Now that you have spent time with your quote and analyzing it, try to write a crisp topic sentence. The topic sentence goes at the top of your paragraph. Think of it as a signpost, telling your reader clearly and convincingly what the quote will do to provide evidence for your argument. Try to answer set up your quote and why it matters as historical evidence supporting a contention or point you are making.

11. Write a concluding sentence that transitions to your next paragraph.

Your concluding sentence strives to be a transition as you head toward the signpost of your next paragraph’s topic sentence. See if you can imagine what you would say next in an essay (a new point? A new quotation or piece of evidence?). How might your concluding sentence pivot from the focus of this paragraph to the next one.

12. Assemble it!

Now you can create a paragraph of historical analysis. Bring together your topic sentence, quotation (with citation), paraphrase, contextualization, and interpretation into one paragraph. Write it here (you can cut and paste).

13. Read your paragraph out loud.

That’s right, read it out loud. If you are feeling technical, record it to your computer or phone and play it back to yourself. 

14. Revise it.

After reading your paragraph out loud, does it make sense to you? Does the language flow? Make some revisions to improve it. Write out the paragraph again here with revisions.

15. Reflect.

What was it like to work on this assignment? Did you learn anything new? Are there things that still feel confusing? Write one-two sentences of reflection on the assignment.

Congratulations, you have done it! You are a bona fide historian! 

You:

  1. studied a primary source. 
  2. selected a quotation. 
  3. cited its source.
  4. described to us, your readers, what the quotation said, using your own words. 
  5. framed a historical question.
  6. contextualized the quotation in its historical moment, thinking about issues of change and continuity.
  7. explained to us how we should interpret it and why it matters historically. 
  8. developed a topic sentence.
  9. developed a concluding transition sentence.
  10. revised and tried to improve your paragraph to crystallize its meaning more effectively.
  11. reflected on your writing.

Of course, there are other aspects to being a historian (such as putting your interpretation in dialogue with what other historians have said about the same topic—we use the fancy word “historiography” to describe that part of being a historian), but this is the core part of the historian’s craft. Welcome!

Tuesday 02/04

The Hog Squeal of the Universe: Industrialization, Urbanization, and Commodification

Required:

  • Listen to or read Dr. Kramer’s “What Are We Up To This Week?”
  • Give Me Liberty!, Ch. 16 America’s Gilded Age, 1870-1890
  • Voices of Freedom, Ch. 16
  • InQuizitive for Ch. 16

In Class:

Two Case Studies of Industrialization—Chicago and Rochester

Thursday 02/06

Where Does the Weekend Come From? Americans Respond to Industrialization

Required:

  • Voices of Freedom, Ch. 17, No. 109 The Populist Platform (1892)

In Class:

  • Where Does the Weekend Come From? Americans Respond to Industrialization

WEEK 04 – 1890-1900: Freedom’s Boundaries, At Home and Abroad

Tuesday 02/11

From Settler Colonialism to Formal Empire

Required:

  • Listen to or read Dr. Kramer’s “What Are We Up To This Week?”
  • Give Me Liberty!, Ch. 17: Freedom’s Boundaries, At Home and Abroad, 1890-1900
  • Voices of Freedom, Ch. 17
  • InQuizitive for Ch. 17

In Class:

  • From the World’s Columbian Exposition to the Spanish-American War

Thursday 02/13

The Nadir: Jim Crow

In Class:

  • Discussion of Booker T. Washington, Address at the Atlanta Cotton Exposition (1895), WEB Dubois, A Critique of Booker T. Washington (1903), and Ida B. Wells, Crusade for Justice (ca. 1892), all in Voices of Freedom, Ch. 17.

WEEK 05 – 1900-1916: The Progressive Era

Tuesday 02/18

Making Progress in Modern America, or Not?

Required:

  • Listen to or read Dr. Kramer’s “What Are We Up To This Week?”
  • Give Me Liberty!, Ch. 18: The Progressive Era 1900-1916
  • Voices of Freedom, Ch. 18
  • InQuizitive for Ch. 18
  • Optional Brockport Historian Reading: Alison M. Parker, “Clubwomen, Reformers, Workers, and Feminists of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era,” in Women’s Rights in the Age of Suffrage: People and Perspectives, ed. Crista DeLuzio (New York: ABC-CLIO, 2009), 117-132

In Class:

  • Was Kind of Progress Did Progressivism Make, and For Whom?

Thursday 02/20

Labor, Women, and Progressivism

In Class:

  • Discussion of Ch. 18, No. 117, Gilman, Women and Economics (1898); No. 118, Ryan, A Living Wage (1912); Flynn, The Industrial Workers of the World and the Free Speech Fights (1909); and Sanger, “Free Motherhood” (1920).

UNIT 02—WWI to WWII (1916-1945)

Week 06 – 1916-1920: Safe for Democracy? The Great War and Its Aftermath

Monday 02/24

Assignment 03 Due: Unit 01 document analysis

Document analysis—annotating, quoting, paraphrasing, questioning, contextualizing, and interpreting

This assignment helps you continue to improve your skills of annotating, quoting, paraphrasing, questioning, contextualizing, and interpretinghistorical evidence. These are the building blocks of historical analysis.

Here’s a model of a paragraph from Eric Foner’s writing in Give Me Liberty! He doesn’t write every paragraph like this. Other paragraphs do different things: some try to communicate his overarching argument, some are just informational, some transition from one section to another, some end with a quote that Foner believes really brings his point home, but some paragraphs are structured in just the way I am asking you to practice writing yours. For instance, notice how on page 842, Foner has a strong topic sentence. He sets up his quotation, contextualizes it, and then offers an interpretation as to its significance:

By the eve of World War II, civil liberties had assumed a central place in the New Deal understanding of freedom. In 1939, Attorney General Frank Murphy established a Civil Liberties Unit in the Department of Justice. “For the first time in our history,” Murphy wrote the president, “the full weight of the Department will be thrown behind the effort to preserve in this country the blessings of liberty.” Meanwhile, the same Supreme Court that in 1937 relinquished its role as a judge of economic legislation moved to expand its authority over civil liberties. The justices insisted that constitutional guarantees of free thought and expression were essential to “nearly every other form of freedom” and therefore deserved special protection page 841 by the courts. Thus, civil liberties replaced liberty of contract as the judicial foundation of freedom. In 1937, the Court overturned on free speech grounds the conviction of Angelo Herndon, a Communist organizer jailed in Georgia for “inciting insurrection.” Three years later, it invalidated an Alabama law that prohibited picketing in labor disputes. Since 1937, the large majority of state and national laws overturned by the courts have been those that infringe on civil liberties, not on the property rights of business.

Directions

In your assignment, use the following numbering system to respond. You should write your assignment in Microsoft Word or equivalent word processing application. Be sure to save often as you work on the assignment so you do not lose your work. 

1. Select a new document from Voices of Freedom.

Select a primary source document from what we have read thus far in the Voices of Freedom reader in addition to “Composite Nation.” Pick a document that has most interested you and that connects to your sense of a theme you noticed in Frederick Douglass’s “Composite Nation” (in your final essay you will bring these documents together into a full essay, although you will have the option to change documents if that becomes of interest to you). Be sure to analyze the document text itself, not the introduction to it by Foner.

2. Annotate document.

Make three annotations on what you think are the three most important parts of primary source document from Voices of Freedom. You can circle something, underline it, make an arrow, make a comment, or whatever moves you to annotate. If you do not wish to mark up your book, take photos or make photocopies of the document pages and mark up those. When you complete the three annotations in your book, take a picture or photocopy your three annotations (if you are working with a copied version you can just use that one). Create a pdf file or print out your annotated pages and upload them to blackboard or hand them in during class. Don’t get bogged down in the technical part, however; focus on the history part.

3. Pick out what you think is the most important sentence in the document. 

Write it down word for word on your assignment. It can be one of your annotations (most likely) or maybe you discovered another sentence you think is the most important one.

4. Identify the speaker/writer.

Write out your quotation. In addition to your citation (next task), you must identify (A) the speaker and (b) from where the quote comes as part of the sentence itself.

For instance, you might write: In his 1869 speech, “Composite Nation,” Frederick Douglass said, “There are such things in the world as human rights. They rest upon no conventional foundation, but are external, universal, and indestructible. Among these, is the right of locomotion; the right of migration” (Citation–see #4).

5. Cite it.

Once again, practice making a citation using the Chicago Manual of Style guidelines. Write down your citation as what would appear in a footnote or endnote. Getting citation style accurate and consistent is important, but also remember that the most important thing is to cite, even if you do not get all the precise rules correct. Fortunately, your amazing librarians at Brockport have assembled a useful guide for scholarly citation right here http://library.brockport.edu/citing. And you can look up specific rules of Chicago style here: http://library.brockport.edu/citing/chicago.

6. Now try to paraphrase the quote you selected.

Which is to say, try to put its words into your own words. Don’t plagiarize, which means that you should not make the language in the quotation your own. Rather, see if you can find new language to describe the sentence you have selected. Write down your paraphrase below your written-out quotation. You should try to do so in one sentence, but two is ok. Not more than two sentences, please.

7. Now frame a why question.

What is the historical question you wish to ask about this quotation? Try to think about something that drew you to it, made you curious about it? Try starting your question with “why.” For instance, in the Foner paragraph quoted above, why did Attorney General Frank Murphy frame the use of the Justice Department’s power in 1939 around the issue of “liberty”?

8. Now frame a causal what question.

What causes something to happen? This is a key historical question. Try to frame a causal what question for your quotation. What caused the speaker to write or say what he/she/they did? What, if anything, did the content of the quotation cause? For instance, in the case of the Foner example, what caused the shifts toward more active uses of the government to expand civil liberties? What, in turn, did the shift in uses of state and legal power cause to happen with civil liberties in the US after the 1930s?

9. Context: change and continuity. 

What was happening around the time the document was written? Does it connect to the document? Is there something similar? Different? Is the connection or different overt? Or perhaps it is explicit. What is the context in which your selected sentence matters? Write down the context (you can write a complete sentence or just a few phrases). Aim for some notes or one sentence, but two sentences is ok here. Not more than two sentences, please. Consider what was changing and what stayed the same (continuity) in the historical moment of the document.

10. OK, now the most important step, interpret.

Add one more sentence that answers this question: why did you think this quotation was important or significant historically, in the time in which it was written? Try to locate the quotation in what we have studied in class so far. To what does the sentence connect? Does it contrast to anything from this week’s readings or lecture? Try to come up with an explanation that responds to one of your questions framed above. Why does the quotation you identified matter to the time in which it was written? See if you can do this in one complete sentence. Think about using explanatory words that offer explanation or comparison such as “because,” “while.” Help us see something you are seeing in the quotation that matters historically.

11. Write a topic sentence.

Now that you have spent time with your quote and analyzing it, try to write a crisp topic sentence. The topic sentence goes at the top of your paragraph. Think of it as a signpost, telling your reader clearly and convincingly what the quote will do to provide evidence for your argument. Try to answer set up your quote and why it matters as historical evidence supporting a contention or point you are making.

12. Write a concluding sentence that transitions to your next paragraph.

Your concluding sentence strives to be a transition as you head toward the signpost of your next paragraph’s topic sentence. See if you can imagine what you would say next in an essay (a new point? A new quotation or piece of evidence?). How might your concluding sentence pivot from the focus of this paragraph to the next one.

13. Assemble it!

Now you can create a paragraph of historical analysis. Bring together your topic sentence, quotation (with citation), paraphrase, contextualization, and interpretation into one paragraph. Write it here (you can cut and paste).

14. Read your paragraph out loud.

That’s right, read it out loud. If you are feeling technical, record it to your computer or phone and play it back to yourself. 

15. Revise it.

After reading your paragraph out loud, does it make sense to you? Does the language flow? Make some revisions to improve it. Write out the paragraph again here with revisions.

16. Reflect.

What was it like to work on this assignment? Did you learn anything new? Are there things that still feel confusing? Write one-two sentences of reflection on the assignment.

Congratulations, you have done it! You are a bona fide historian! 

You:

  1. studied a primary source.
  2. selected a quotation.
  3. cited its source.
  4. described to us, your readers, what the quotation said, using your own words.
  5. framed a historical question.
  6. contextualized the quotation in its historical moment, thinking about issues of change and continuity.
  7. explained to us how we should interpret it and why it matters historically.
  8. developed a topic sentence.
  9. developed a concluding transition sentence.
  10. revised and tried to improve your paragraph to crystallize its meaning more effectively.
  11. reflected on your writing.

Of course, there are other aspects to being a historian (such as putting your interpretation in dialogue with what other historians have said about the same topic—we use the fancy word “historiography” to describe that part of being a historian), but this is the core part of the historian’s craft. Welcome!

Tuesday 02/25

The Wartime State: Make the World Safe for Democracy

Required:

In Class:

  • The Rise of the Wartime State

Thursday 02/27

Who Is an American? Postwar Struggles and Traumas

In Class:

  • Thinking about 1919

WEEK 07 – 1920-1932: From Business Culture to Great Depression in the “Roaring” Twenties

Thursday 03/03

What Made the “Roaring” Twenties Roaring?

Required:

  • Listen to or read Dr. Kramer’s “What Are We Up To This Week?”
  • Give Me Liberty!, Ch. 20: From Business Culture to Great Depression in the “Roaring” Twenties, 1920-1932
  • Voices of Freedom, Ch. 20
  • InQuizitive for Ch. 20

In Class:

  • What Made the “Roaring” Twenties Roaring?

Thursday 03/05

From Roaring Twenties to Great Depression

In Class:

  • From Roaring Twenties to Great Depression

WEEK 08 – 1932-1940: The New Deal

Tuesday 03/10

FDR’s New Deal and the Making of Modern Liberalism

Required:

  • Listen to or read Dr. Kramer’s “What Are We Up To This Week?”
  • Give Me Liberty!, Ch. 21: The New Deal, 1932-1940
  • Voices of Freedom, Ch. 21
  • InQuizitive for Ch. 21
  • Optional Brockport Historian Reading: Anne S. Macpherson, “Birth of the U.S. Colonial Minimum Wage: The Struggle over the Fair Labor Standards Act in Puerto Rico, 1938–1941,” Journal of American History 104, 3 (December 2017), 656-680

In Class:

  • From Laissez-Faire to Modern Liberalism: The New Deal and the Transformation of the State

Thursday 03/12

FDR’s New Deal and the Making of “Modern” Liberalism

In Class:

  • From Laissez-Faire to Modern Liberalism: The New Deal and the Transformation of the State

WEEK 09 – Spring Break

WEEK 10 – 1941-1945: Fighting for the Four Freedoms: World War II

Tuesday 03/24

Was World War II the Actual New Deal?

Required:

  • Listen to or read Dr. Kramer’s “What Are We Up To This Week?”
  • Give Me Liberty!, Ch. 22: Fighting for the Four Freedoms: World War II, 1941-1945
  • Voices of Freedom, Ch. 22
  • InQuizitive for Ch. 22

In Class:

  • Was World War II the Actual New Deal?

Thursday 03/26

Freedom Dreams in Multiracial Democracy: Taking Stock of America at Midcentury

In Class:

  • Discussion.

UNIT 03—Cold War to Present (1945-2020)

WEEK 11 – 1945-1960: The Cold War at Abroad and at Home

Monday 03/30

Assignment 04 Due: Unit 02 document analysis

Document analysis—annotating, quoting, paraphrasing, questioning, contextualizing, and interpreting

This assignment helps you continue to improve your skills of annotating, quoting, paraphrasing, questioning, contextualizing, and interpretinghistorical evidence. These are the building blocks of historical analysis.

Here’s a model of a paragraph from Eric Foner’s writing in Give Me Liberty! He doesn’t write every paragraph like this. Other paragraphs do different things: some try to communicate his overarching argument, some are just informational, some transition from one section to another, some end with a quote that Foner believes really brings his point home, but some paragraphs are structured in just the way I am asking you to practice writing yours. For instance, notice how on page 842, Foner has a strong topic sentence. He sets up his quotation, contextualizes it, and then offers an interpretation as to its significance:

By the eve of World War II, civil liberties had assumed a central place in the New Deal understanding of freedom. In 1939, Attorney General Frank Murphy established a Civil Liberties Unit in the Department of Justice. “For the first time in our history,” Murphy wrote the president, “the full weight of the Department will be thrown behind the effort to preserve in this country the blessings of liberty.” Meanwhile, the same Supreme Court that in 1937 relinquished its role as a judge of economic legislation moved to expand its authority over civil liberties. The justices insisted that constitutional guarantees of free thought and expression were essential to “nearly every other form of freedom” and therefore deserved special protection page 841 by the courts. Thus, civil liberties replaced liberty of contract as the judicial foundation of freedom. In 1937, the Court overturned on free speech grounds the conviction of Angelo Herndon, a Communist organizer jailed in Georgia for “inciting insurrection.” Three years later, it invalidated an Alabama law that prohibited picketing in labor disputes. Since 1937, the large majority of state and national laws overturned by the courts have been those that infringe on civil liberties, not on the property rights of business.

Directions

In your assignment, use the following numbering system to respond. You should write your assignment in Microsoft Word or equivalent word processing application. Be sure to save often as you work on the assignment so you do not lose your work. 

1. Select a new document from Voices of Freedom.

Select a primary source document from the Voices of Freedom reader from Unit 02. Pick a document that has most interested you and that connects to your sense of a theme you noticed in Frederick Douglass’s “Composite Nation” and your prior primary source document assignment for Unit 01 (in your final essay you will bring these documents together into a full essay, although you will have the option to change documents if that becomes of interest to you). Be sure to analyze the document text itself, not the introduction to it by Foner.

2. Annotate document.

Make three annotations on what you think are the three most important parts of primary source document from Voices of Freedom. You can circle something, underline it, make an arrow, make a comment, or whatever moves you to annotate. If you do not wish to mark up your book, take photos or make photocopies of the document pages and mark up those. When you complete the three annotations in your book, take a picture or photocopy your three annotations (if you are working with a copied version you can just use that one). Create a pdf file or print out your annotated pages and upload them to blackboard or hand them in during class. Don’t get bogged down in the technical part, however; focus on the history part.

3. Pick out what you think is the most important sentence in the document. 

Write it down word for word on your assignment. It can be one of your annotations (most likely) or maybe you discovered another sentence you think is the most important one.

4. Identify the speaker/writer.

Write out your quotation. In addition to your citation (next task), you must identify (A) the speaker and (b) from where the quote comes as part of the sentence itself.

For instance, you might write: In his 1869 speech, “Composite Nation,” Frederick Douglass said, “There are such things in the world as human rights. They rest upon no conventional foundation, but are external, universal, and indestructible. Among these, is the right of locomotion; the right of migration” (Citation–see #4).

5. Cite it.

Once again, practice making a citation using the Chicago Manual of Style guidelines. Write down your citation as what would appear in a footnote or endnote. Getting citation style accurate and consistent is important, but also remember that the most important thing is to cite, even if you do not get all the precise rules correct. Fortunately, your amazing librarians at Brockport have assembled a useful guide for scholarly citation right here http://library.brockport.edu/citing. And you can look up specific rules of Chicago style here: http://library.brockport.edu/citing/chicago.

6. Now try to paraphrase the quote you selected.

Which is to say, try to put its words into your own words. Don’t plagiarize, which means that you should not make the language in the quotation your own. Rather, see if you can find new language to describe the sentence you have selected. Write down your paraphrase below your written-out quotation. You should try to do so in one sentence, but two is ok. Not more than two sentences, please.

7. Now frame a why question.

What is the historical question you wish to ask about this quotation? Try to think about something that drew you to it, made you curious about it? Try starting your question with “why.” For instance, in the Foner paragraph quoted above, why did Attorney General Frank Murphy frame the use of the Justice Department’s power in 1939 around the issue of “liberty”?

8. Now frame a causal what question.

What causes something to happen? This is a key historical question. Try to frame a causal what question for your quotation. What caused the speaker to write or say what he/she/they did? What, if anything, did the content of the quotation cause? For instance, in the case of the Foner example, what caused the shifts toward more active uses of the government to expand civil liberties? What, in turn, did the shift in uses of state and legal power cause to happen with civil liberties in the US after the 1930s?

9. Context: change and continuity. 

What was happening around the time the document was written? Does it connect to the document? Is there something similar? Different? Is the connection or different overt? Or perhaps it is explicit. What is the context in which your selected sentence matters? Write down the context (you can write a complete sentence or just a few phrases). Aim for some notes or one sentence, but two sentences is ok here. Not more than two sentences, please. Consider what was changing and what stayed the same (continuity) in the historical moment of the document.

10. OK, now the most important step, interpret.

Add one more sentence that answers this question: why did you think this quotation was important or significant historically, in the time in which it was written? Try to locate the quotation in what we have studied in class so far. To what does the sentence connect? Does it contrast to anything from this week’s readings or lecture? Try to come up with an explanation that responds to one of your questions framed above. Why does the quotation you identified matter to the time in which it was written? See if you can do this in one complete sentence. Think about using explanatory words that offer explanation or comparison such as “because,” “while.” Help us see something you are seeing in the quotation that matters historically.

11. Write a topic sentence.

Now that you have spent time with your quote and analyzing it, try to write a crisp topic sentence. The topic sentence goes at the top of your paragraph. Think of it as a signpost, telling your reader clearly and convincingly what the quote will do to provide evidence for your argument. Try to answer set up your quote and why it matters as historical evidence supporting a contention or point you are making.

12. Write a concluding sentence that transitions to your next paragraph.

Your concluding sentence strives to be a transition as you head toward the signpost of your next paragraph’s topic sentence. See if you can imagine what you would say next in an essay (a new point? A new quotation or piece of evidence?). How might your concluding sentence pivot from the focus of this paragraph to the next one.

13. Assemble it!

Now you can create a paragraph of historical analysis. Bring together your topic sentence, quotation (with citation), paraphrase, contextualization, and interpretation into one paragraph. Write it here (you can cut and paste).

14. Read your paragraph out loud.

That’s right, read it out loud. If you are feeling technical, record it to your computer or phone and play it back to yourself. 

15. Revise it.

After reading your paragraph out loud, does it make sense to you? Does the language flow? Make some revisions to improve it. Write out the paragraph again here with revisions.

16. Reflect.

What was it like to work on this assignment? Did you learn anything new? Are there things that still feel confusing? Write one-two sentences of reflection on the assignment.

Congratulations, you have done it! You are a bona fide historian! 

You:

  • studied a primary source.
  • selected a quotation.
  • cited its source.
  • described to us, your readers, what the quotation said, using your own words.
  • framed a historical question.
  • contextualized the quotation in its historical moment, thinking about issues of change and continuity.
  • explained to us how we should interpret it and why it matters historically.
  • developed a topic sentence.
  • developed a concluding transition sentence.
  • revised and tried to improve your paragraph to crystallize its meaning more effectively.
  • reflected on your writing.

Of course, there are other aspects to being a historian (such as putting your interpretation in dialogue with what other historians have said about the same topic—we use the fancy word “historiography” to describe that part of being a historian), but this is the core part of the historian’s craft. Welcome!

Tuesday 03/31

Cold War Abroad

Required:

  • Listen to or read Dr. Kramer’s “What Are We Up To This Week?”
  • Give Me Liberty!, Ch. 23: The United States and the Cold War, 1945-1953
  • Voices of Freedom, Ch. 23
  • InQuizitive for Ch. 23

In Class:

  • The Cold War Abroad

Thursday 04/02

Cold War at Home

Required:

  • Give Me Liberty!, Ch. 24: The United States and the Cold War, 1945-1953
  • Voices of Freedom, Ch. 24
  • InQuizitive for Ch. 24
  • Optional Brockport Historian Reading: Bruce Leslie (and John Halsey), “A College Upon a Hill: Exceptionalism & American Higher Education,” in Marks of Distinction: American Exceptionalism Revisited, ed. Dale Carter (Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 2001), 197-228

In Class:

  • The Cold War at Home

WEEK 12 – 1960-1969: Abundance and Its Discontents (Discontent and Its Abundance?)

Tuesday 04/07

A Second Reconstruction? Civil Rights, Vietnam, and the New Left

Required:

  • Listen to or read Dr. Kramer’s “What Are We Up To This Week?”
  • Give Me Liberty!, Ch. 25: The Sixties, 1960-1968
  • Voices of Freedom, Ch. 25
  • InQuizitive for Ch. 25
  • Optional Brockport Historian Reading: Meredith Roman, “The Black Panther Party and the Struggle for Human Rights,” Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men 5, 1, The Black Panther Party (Fall 2016), 7-32

In Class:

  • What Made the 60s “the Sixties”? Civil Rights, Vietnam, and the New Left

Thursday 04/09

R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Find Out What It Means to…the Sixties

In Class:

  • How One Song Helps Us Think About Modern America in the Sixties

WEEK 13 – 1970-1989: Confusion and the Rise of Modern Conservatism

Tuesday 04/14

Disco Demolition: From Watergate to the Malaise Speech

Required:

  • Listen to or read Dr. Kramer’s “What Are We Up To This Week?”
  • Give Me Liberty!, Ch. 26, The Triumph of Conservatism, 1969-1988
  • Voices of Freedom, Ch. 26
  • InQuizitive for Ch. 26
  • Optional Brockport Historian Reading: Michael J. Kramer, “The Woodstock Transnational: Rock Music & Global Countercultural Citizenship After the Vietnam War,” Talk Delivered at Music and Nations III: Music in Postwar Transitions (19th-21st Centuries), Université de Montréal, 21 October 2018, based on material in the book The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013)

In Class:

  • Disco Demolition: From Watergate to the Malaise Speech

Thursday 04/16

Reagan: The Rise of Modern Conservatism

In Class:

  • Freedom Dreams and Multiracial Democracy in Modern Conservatism?

WEEK 14 – 1989-2001: Between Two Falls: From the Fall of the Berlin Wall to 9/11,

Tuesday 04/21

Globalization and Its Discontents

Required:

  • Listen to or read Dr. Kramer’s “What Are We Up To This Week?”
  • Give Me Liberty!, Ch. 27, From Triumph to Tragedy, 1989-2001
  • Voices of Freedom, Ch. 27
  • InQuizitive for Ch. 27

In Class:

  • After the Cold War: For Whom Was Globalization?

Thursday 04/23

Globalization and Its Discontents

In Class:

  • Discussion. Materials TBA.

WEEK 15 – 2001-2020: Beyond Modern America?

Tuesday 04/28

Freedom Dreams at the End of the Twentieth Century

Required:

  • Listen to or read Dr. Kramer’s “What Are We Up To This Week?”
  • Give Me Liberty!, Ch. 28, A New Century and New Crises, 2001-Present
  • Voices of Freedom, Ch. 28
  • InQuizitive for Ch. 28
  • Optional Brockport Historian Reading: James Spiller, “Nostalgia for the Right Stuff: Astronauts and Public Anxiety about a Changing Nation,” in Michael Neufeld ed., Spacefarers: Images of Astronauts and Cosmonauts in the Heroic Era of Spaceflight (Smithsonian Scholarly Press, 2013), 57-76

In Class:

  • The 2000 Election, 9/11, and the War on Terror

Thursday 04/30

From the Great Recession and Obama’s Election to Struggles Over Trying to Making America Great

Required:

In Class:

  • The Great Recession, the Rise of Obama, and Struggles Over Making America “Great Again”

Week 16 – Conclusions

Monday 05/04

Assignment 05 Due: Unit 03 document analysis

Document analysis—annotating, quoting, paraphrasing, questioning, contextualizing, and interpreting

This assignment helps you continue to improve your skills of annotating, quoting, paraphrasing, questioning, contextualizing, and interpretinghistorical evidence. These are the building blocks of historical analysis.

Here’s a model of a paragraph from Eric Foner’s writing in Give Me Liberty! He doesn’t write every paragraph like this. Other paragraphs do different things: some try to communicate his overarching argument, some are just informational, some transition from one section to another, some end with a quote that Foner believes really brings his point home, but some paragraphs are structured in just the way I am asking you to practice writing yours. For instance, notice how on page 842, Foner has a strong topic sentence. He sets up his quotation, contextualizes it, and then offers an interpretation as to its significance:

By the eve of World War II, civil liberties had assumed a central place in the New Deal understanding of freedom. In 1939, Attorney General Frank Murphy established a Civil Liberties Unit in the Department of Justice. “For the first time in our history,” Murphy wrote the president, “the full weight of the Department will be thrown behind the effort to preserve in this country the blessings of liberty.” Meanwhile, the same Supreme Court that in 1937 relinquished its role as a judge of economic legislation moved to expand its authority over civil liberties. The justices insisted that constitutional guarantees of free thought and expression were essential to “nearly every other form of freedom” and therefore deserved special protection page 841 by the courts. Thus, civil liberties replaced liberty of contract as the judicial foundation of freedom. In 1937, the Court overturned on free speech grounds the conviction of Angelo Herndon, a Communist organizer jailed in Georgia for “inciting insurrection.” Three years later, it invalidated an Alabama law that prohibited picketing in labor disputes. Since 1937, the large majority of state and national laws overturned by the courts have been those that infringe on civil liberties, not on the property rights of business.

Directions

In your assignment, use the following numbering system to respond. You should write your assignment in Microsoft Word or equivalent word processing application. Be sure to save often as you work on the assignment so you do not lose your work. 

1. Select a new document from Voices of Freedom.

Select a primary source document from the Voices of Freedom reader from Unit 03. Pick a document that has most interested you and that connects to your sense of a theme you noticed in Frederick Douglass’s “Composite Nation” and your prior primary source document assignment for Unit 01 (in your final essay you will bring these documents together into a full essay, although you will have the option to change documents if that becomes of interest to you). Be sure to analyze the document text itself, not the introduction to it by Foner.

2. Annotate document.

Make three annotations on what you think are the three most important parts of primary source document from Voices of Freedom. You can circle something, underline it, make an arrow, make a comment, or whatever moves you to annotate. If you do not wish to mark up your book, take photos or make photocopies of the document pages and mark up those. When you complete the three annotations in your book, take a picture or photocopy your three annotations (if you are working with a copied version you can just use that one). Create a pdf file or print out your annotated pages and upload them to blackboard or hand them in during class. Don’t get bogged down in the technical part, however; focus on the history part.

3. Pick out what you think is the most important sentence in the document. 

Write it down word for word on your assignment. It can be one of your annotations (most likely) or maybe you discovered another sentence you think is the most important one.

4. Identify the speaker/writer.

Write out your quotation. In addition to your citation (next task), you must identify (A) the speaker and (b) from where the quote comes as part of the sentence itself.

For instance, you might write: In his 1869 speech, “Composite Nation,” Frederick Douglass said, “There are such things in the world as human rights. They rest upon no conventional foundation, but are external, universal, and indestructible. Among these, is the right of locomotion; the right of migration” (Citation–see #4).

5. Cite it.

Once again, practice making a citation using the Chicago Manual of Style guidelines. Write down your citation as what would appear in a footnote or endnote. Getting citation style accurate and consistent is important, but also remember that the most important thing is to cite, even if you do not get all the precise rules correct. Fortunately, your amazing librarians at Brockport have assembled a useful guide for scholarly citation right here http://library.brockport.edu/citing. And you can look up specific rules of Chicago style here: http://library.brockport.edu/citing/chicago.

6. Now try to paraphrase the quote you selected.

Which is to say, try to put its words into your own words. Don’t plagiarize, which means that you should not make the language in the quotation your own. Rather, see if you can find new language to describe the sentence you have selected. Write down your paraphrase below your written-out quotation. You should try to do so in one sentence, but two is ok. Not more than two sentences, please.

7. Now frame a why question.

What is the historical question you wish to ask about this quotation? Try to think about something that drew you to it, made you curious about it? Try starting your question with “why.” For instance, in the Foner paragraph quoted above, why did Attorney General Frank Murphy frame the use of the Justice Department’s power in 1939 around the issue of “liberty”?

8. Now frame a causal what question.

What causes something to happen? This is a key historical question. Try to frame a causal what question for your quotation. What caused the speaker to write or say what he/she/they did? What, if anything, did the content of the quotation cause? For instance, in the case of the Foner example, what caused the shifts toward more active uses of the government to expand civil liberties? What, in turn, did the shift in uses of state and legal power cause to happen with civil liberties in the US after the 1930s?

9. Context: change and continuity. 

What was happening around the time the document was written? Does it connect to the document? Is there something similar? Different? Is the connection or different overt? Or perhaps it is explicit. What is the context in which your selected sentence matters? Write down the context (you can write a complete sentence or just a few phrases). Aim for some notes or one sentence, but two sentences is ok here. Not more than two sentences, please. Consider what was changing and what stayed the same (continuity) in the historical moment of the document.

10. OK, now the most important step, interpret.

Add one more sentence that answers this question: why did you think this quotation was important or significant historically, in the time in which it was written? Try to locate the quotation in what we have studied in class so far. To what does the sentence connect? Does it contrast to anything from this week’s readings or lecture? Try to come up with an explanation that responds to one of your questions framed above. Why does the quotation you identified matter to the time in which it was written? See if you can do this in one complete sentence. Think about using explanatory words that offer explanation or comparison such as “because,” “while.” Help us see something you are seeing in the quotation that matters historically.

11. Write a topic sentence.

Now that you have spent time with your quote and analyzing it, try to write a crisp topic sentence. The topic sentence goes at the top of your paragraph. Think of it as a signpost, telling your reader clearly and convincingly what the quote will do to provide evidence for your argument. Try to answer set up your quote and why it matters as historical evidence supporting a contention or point you are making.

12. Write a concluding sentence that transitions to your next paragraph.

Your concluding sentence strives to be a transition as you head toward the signpost of your next paragraph’s topic sentence. See if you can imagine what you would say next in an essay (a new point? A new quotation or piece of evidence?). How might your concluding sentence pivot from the focus of this paragraph to the next one.

13. Assemble it!

Now you can create a paragraph of historical analysis. Bring together your topic sentence, quotation (with citation), paraphrase, contextualization, and interpretation into one paragraph. Write it here (you can cut and paste).

14. Read your paragraph out loud.

That’s right, read it out loud. If you are feeling technical, record it to your computer or phone and play it back to yourself. 

15. Revise it.

After reading your paragraph out loud, does it make sense to you? Does the language flow? Make some revisions to improve it. Write out the paragraph again here with revisions.

16. Reflect.

What was it like to work on this assignment? Did you learn anything new? Are there things that still feel confusing? Write one-two sentences of reflection on the assignment.

Congratulations, you have done it! You are a bona fide historian! 

You:

  1. studied a primary source.
  2. selected a quotation.
  3. cited its source.
  4. described to us, your readers, what the quotation said, using your own words.
  5. framed a historical question.
  6. contextualized the quotation in its historical moment, thinking about issues of change and continuity.
  7. explained to us how we should interpret it and why it matters historically.
  8. developed a topic sentence.
  9. developed a concluding transition sentence.
  10. revised and tried to improve your paragraph to crystallize its meaning more effectively.
  11. reflected on your writing.

Of course, there are other aspects to being a historian (such as putting your interpretation in dialogue with what other historians have said about the same topic—we use the fancy word “historiography” to describe that part of being a historian), but this is the core part of the historian’s craft. Welcome!

Tuesday 05/05

Conclusions

In Class:

  • TBA.

Final Essay: Bringing It All Together Through Thematic Focus

Due Thursday 05/13 midnight

Directions

You should write your assignment in Microsoft Word or equivalent word processing application. Be sure to save often as you work on the assignment so you do not lose your work.

In your final essay, you will put together the historical analysis and writing you have been working on into one full piece of writing. 

Rather than structure your essay by document analysis, now your job is to structure it by theme. You might have two or three themes that emerge out of an introductory paragraph and thesis statement. Your task is to develop a historical interpretation of three primary sources from the course, beginning with Frederick Douglass’s “Composite Nation” and your two other document analyses, but now reworked into a thematic-driven essay. What do we see and learn when we bring these three artifacts/documents together that we did not know before? Offer a precise and convincing evidence-based historical argument that uses quotations, paraphrasing, contextualization, and interpretation in graceful, clear, and stylish prose. 

Revision will almost certainly improve the quality of your final version; visit the Academic Success Center for an advising meeting to work on your revisions.

The final essay should contain:

  1. Analysis of Frederick Douglass’s “Composite Nation,” your second document analysis (Assignment 03), and your third document analysis (Assignment 04).
  2. Citations of all evidence as footnotes or endnotes using Chicago Manual of Style format.
  3. An introductory paragraph with thesis statement at the end of it. Any paper that begins “Throughout history” or starts with a point about contemporary times loses half a grade automatically. DO NOT DO THIS. Start with something more specific, such as an observation about one of your primary sources. Use it to “hook” the reader in, then move on to your thesis statement.
  4. Important: the thesis statement! It should come at the end of your introductory paragraph. Think of the thesis statement as the topic sentence of all topic sentences, the big kahuna. The thesis statement should be one or perhaps two sentences. You should precisely sum up your overarching argument, including, crucially, an explanation or interpretation of why (think back to your question work on causality as well as change and continuity. Try to use a word such as “because.” Or make a precise comparison such as “While Frederick Douglass, speaking in 1869 and buoyed by the energies of Radical Reconstruction, was optimistic about the development of a multiracial America based in principles of equality, by contrast, Marcus Garvey, writing in 1920 after the suffering of Jim Crow segregation and terror, was far more pessimistic; the change over time in treatment of African Americans and other people of color in America suggests not a narrative of progress, but one of more fraught struggle, and often disappointment.” That’s just an example but notice how it uses comparison and change over time to make a case based on the evidence. Or try a thesis statement that uses historical irony: “One would think that all Americans believed that the government would be democratic, but historical sources such as Frederick Douglass’s ‘Composite Nation,’ General Frank Murphy’s speech about civil liberties from 1939, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech demonstrate how there has always been a suspicion of the effectiveness of government in the United States; instead it is the people who must keep their government in check. There are three ways in which Douglass, Murphy, and King focus on people’s actions rather than government ones being the key to democracy in the United States: the first is their shared focus on the limits of state power; the second is their slightly different ways of considering the role of voting and enfranchisement; and the third is their quite divergent views on the power of speech compared to acts of bodily activism or the use of brute power.” That’s a made-up argument by the way, but see how you can use a “You might think this, but a closer look at the sources say that!” kind of thesis statement to make a compelling and intriguing historical argument? And also notice how the second sentence sets up the structure of the subsequent essay, which will quote each of the documents within a thematic focus of that section.
  5. Important: Organize your final essay by theme rather than by document. Each paragraph/section if more than one paragraph should be a theme with quote from each of the three documents.
  6. Effective transition sentences.
  7. A strong conclusion. Try to end strong, returning to your thesis statement with new language to restate it.
  8. Graceful and precise prose that knits together the essay into a cogent, coherent, and compelling 3-5 page piece of writing.
     

You have done a lot of work in this course to get to this essay. Keep working on your writing and thinking and know that you can use the power of history to make your way in the world. I’ll be rooting for you! Prof. Kramer

Optional Extra Credit: Brockport Historians Essay

Due Thursday 05/13 midnight

Directions

Develop a compelling interpretive essay about at least three of the Brockport historian optional readings. Your essay should be 3-5 pages long, present a compelling and clear thesis statement, effective quotation, paraphrasing, contextualization, and interpretation, and feature accurate citation. It should possess a strong introduction and conclusion. The essay should be thematically driven, in a similar manner to the final essay, relating the three readings into comparison, noticing similarities and differences, and articulating reasons why or how they are so.

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