American History Argumentative Essay

Paper Instructions


Paper 1 is your first attempt at an argumentative essay. It is exactly that, an attempt.  You have already familiarized your self with our secondary source, the Yawp. In this paper, you will also analyze at least 2 primary sources and combine these elements to form one cohesive essay. This paper, like all of the remaining papers, requires that you interpret primary source evidence in a historical context, drawing from the assigned course readings as your secondary source.


· Your paper must be 900-1200 words.

· Times 12 pt font DOUBLE SPACED 1″ margins

· approx. 3-4 pages NOT including bibliography

· Chicago-style footnote citations

· Chicago-style Bibliography on separate page

· Review for errors of spelling and grammar—this is a formal written report! I recommend using the advanced spelling and grammar check functions in your word processor of choice



How and why do the authors of the two primary sources differ or relate to each other in their views of African American political participation and voting in the 1880s? Furthermore, if so, what does this reveal about American society and politics in the 1880s?

Both the authors of the Report of the Select Committee and Philip Bruce believed that the future of American democracy depended on whether or not African Americans participated in the political process. Their agreement ended there. What does the contrast between these two perspectives reveal about America in the 1880s?


Note that this question does not ask you to evaluate which of the two documents you agree with, nor does it ask you to evaluate whether either document is reliable or biased. Both documents are reliable sources of evidence about what their authors thought at the time, and both authors have biases and underlying assumptions. Your task is to explain how these two contrasting perspectives— with two very different sets of underlying assumptions—emerged from the same historical context in the 1870s and 1880s.



Your paper must include an  introduction , several distinct body paragraphs , and a  conclusion .

Your  introduction  should not begin with an overly broad, general statement, but instead should introduce the specific time, place, and topic you are writing about. Do not assume that your reader knows anything about the history you are describing. Your introduction provides necessary context for the reader that informs your paper of how the issue that you will discuss in your thesis came to be. Good historical introductions do not need catchy hooks or buzzwords. You should really be introducing the reader to the historical causes of your thesis. Also, please be mindful that for this class, you should not be using footnotes in the introduction, as you have nothing to prove until you have revealed your thesis. The last sentence or sentences of you introduction must be your thesis. Your thesis must directly answer the prompt and also provide groupings of evidence that will preview the body paragraphs. Finishing your introduction with your thesis provides a natural springboard for the rest of your paper. Papers that do not have enough context or a sound thesis in their introduction will lose introduction, thesis, and structure points.

Your introduction must include

· a) historical context that provides the causes and context for the thesis

· b) a thesis statement that is the last sentence or sentences of your introduction that answers the prompt in way that does not repeat the prompt or is obvious, and

· c) provides an overview of how the remainder of your paper will be organized (a “roadmap” for your reader).

Your  body paragraphs a minimum of at least two, should each be organized around a main idea or focal point of evidence, and should each offer evidentiary analysis and contextualization to support your thesis. This is where you will be citing primary and secondary sources and including footnotes for the reader, properly sourcing your evidence. The best body paragraphs have topic sentences that introduce the main idea of the paragraph, and have transition sentences into the the next body paragraph. Papers that do not have distinct body paragraphs with clearly grouped evidence and ideas will lose structure and analysis points.

Your  conclusion  should summarize your arguments first, then it provides space to add to your paper. Start your conclusion by restating your thesis, and summarizing the main points made in your body paragraphs. A wise exercise is to find a parallel with another time period in history, and draw parallels and other conclusions, like similarities or differences. A conclusion is also an excellent place to present the reader with a rhetorical question, or suggest an alternate pathway of historical development given a change. Papers that do not have conclusions and end abruptly without at least a restatement of the thesis will lose structure points.






You are expected to read all the sources below and cite them in your paper as necessary and appropriately to support your thesis. As stated above, you may not cite sources outside this list, and will be penalized for doing so.


· Report of the Select Committee to Inquire into the Mississippi Election of 1883. 48th Congress, 1st session. Senate Report no. 512. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1884) Excerpted

· The Plantation Negro as A Freeman; Observations on His Character, Condition, and Prospects in Virginia Bruce, Philip Alexander (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889) Excerpted


· American Yawp  (Links to an external site.) – Chapters on Reconstruction, Segregation, and voting in the Gilded Age, Chapters 14, 15, 16, and 17



· This paper must include several footnotes and a separate bibliography on a new page to receive any points on the grading rubric for proper citation

· Different sources will have the necessary information sometimes in different places. You must find the relevant information in each of the sources handled this semester. This will include but is not limited to author, title, publication date, etc.

· This information will vary from document to document and will change depending on the type of medium. For example, book citations require different pieces of information compared to websites, newspaper articles, or speeches.

· Read the  Chicago Style Footnotes: Learning The Basics  for full information on how to cite both footnotes and bibliographies, located in the Getting Started Module

The Chicago style of citing we use requires footnotes (at the bottom, or the “foot” of the page) rather than in-text or parenthetical citations. Generally, you want to provide the author’s name, publication title, publication information, date of publication, and page number(s) if it is the first time the source is being used. Any additional usage, simply use the author’s last name, publication title, and date of publication. Footnotes should match with a superscript number at the end of the sentence referencing the source. You should begin with 1 and continue numerically throughout the paper. Do not start the order over on each page.

Different word processors have different mechanisms for inserting footnotes, therefore I STRONGLY SUGGEST YOU GOOGLE OR SEARCH YOUTUBE FOR HOW TO INSERT A FOOTNOTE ON MS WORD, GOOGLE DOCS, OR YOUR PREFERRED WORD PROCESSOR.


All papers in this course require a bibliography, also in Chicago-style, 12pt Times font, with 1″ margins.

A bibliography is a list of the books and other sources that are referred to in a scholarly work-such as an essay, term paper, dissertation, or a book. The bibliography comes at the end of the work.

Your bibliography will be on its own separate page, functioning as the last page of all your papers. It will present a list of all the sources referenced in your paper in alphabetical order. Another way of thinking about it: if you used a book/source for footnote, even if you cited the same document multiple times, then the book/source needs to go in your bibliography.

I repeat, each source or book needs to be listed only once in your bibliography, no matter how many times it is cited in the footnotes of the paper.



· Do not use the first person in Academic Writing EVER!!!

· Do not us “I” to refer to yourself in your essay, NEVER EVER EVER. I know it’s you because your name is at the top. Instead of “I believe that the Civil War was caused by…” instead, write “The causes of the  Civil War were…” You want to present your opinions as fact and it makes your writing read as sloppy and informal.

· Do not use contractions in Academic Writing

· This means do not use “don’t,” “can’t,” “would’ve,” etc. These are all considered informal and not appropriate for a historical essay. Instead, write out do not or did not, cannot, and would have.



In order to receive full credit, all of your papers must:

· be organized around a thesis, argument, point, or central claim.

· closely analyze and describe the assigned primary sources using specifics and details

· use the Yawp, our scholarly secondary source text for evidence about the historical context

· select and present evidence to prove a thesis in order to draw conclusions beyond those that are immediately obvious from the evidence

· have an introductory paragraph that provides historical context for the time period being analyzed, and presents its thesis as its last sentence

· be organized by having at least two body paragraphs that present the main evidence and support for the thesis, and a conclusion

· use correctly formatted footnote citations and include a bibliography as described in the Chicago Style Citation Manual,  (Links to an external site.)