HIST1483 Paper 1: Evaluating the effect of African slavery on Indigenous people in early Virginia  


100 points (10% of total grade )+ 20 points for draft of intro paragraph, etc.

You are writing this paper for a number of reasons:

  1. Using information about the situation in early Virginia will deepen your knowledge about the period, especially about the evolution of slavery in its earliest forms. How some people used the legal system to create slavery but others used courts to fight against it. Seeing the complex set of circumstances around the formation of slavery is called building context – an essential skill for historians and citizens.
  2. Being able to look at laws, petitions, and letters from the perspective of Africans and Native Americans will help you understand how people fought against slavery, but also why Europeans believed it was necessary. Seeing issues and events from a variety of experiences is a key component of intercultural competence.
  3. Reading documents, slowly and carefully, from the past will sharpen your reading and vocabulary skills, essential for success at the college level.
  4. Developing an argument to answer the question above, gathering evidence to support it, a presenting it in a logical format is a skill you will use for all assignments in this course and many other disciplines beyond history.


You will write a 3-4 page (900 – 950 words) persuasive essay with a thesis that provide a direct answer to the following questions: How did the status of enslaved Indians in Virginia change from the mid-seventeenth to the early-eighteenth century? How were these changes linked to shifting laws and ideas about African slavery?”


  • All papers must include footnotesformatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style. (For instructions, see the Citation Guide on the Exploring U.S. History website.) This is simple for this paper, but good practice as it gets more complicated for Paper 2.

First you have to gather some information and consider some questions that we have talked about in class: Who were Virginia’s native people? What happened to them when Europeans arrived? Why did Europeans want Indian slaves? Then, using material from the 1619 project that we discussed and from lecture, consider how African labor evolved into a slave system. How does this affect enslaved Indians over time? What is different between the laws passed in the 1660s from those passed in 1722? Why do so many rules develop about who is a “servant” vs. who is a “slave”?

Second, decide what kind of claim you want to make. Was African slavery good or bad for Native people in early Virginia? Or, was it more complicated than that, so both bad and good?

Third, now that you have claim or a statement you want to prove, go through all of the documents and find evidence and quotes to support your ideas. Remember that the questions you are answering are: How did the status of enslaved Indians in Virginia change from the mid-seventeenth to the early-eighteenth century? How were these changes linked to shifting laws and ideas about African slavery?”

Now you’re ready to start arranging your material and writing.  For assistance in building paragraphs that use evidence this way, see the following handout: http://explorehistory.ou.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Assert-Cite-Explain.pdf

Fourth, bring a draft of your introductory paragraph to class on Wednesday, Sept. 30. That paragraph should end with your claim or statement you want to prove. This assignment counts 20 points and will make sure you are on the right track with this assignment. You should have decided which three documents you are going to use.

  • TIP 1: Start early. When we discuss the documents in class, the week before the paper is due, come prepared. If you’ve read them ahead of time you will be able to make much more sense of what they are saying and how you can use them in your paper.
  • TIP 2: You don’t need to tell the whole story of the history of slavery in Virginia. You are writing and organizing an essay around one specific set of documents to answer a specific question. Do NOT do outside research. This paper is entirely based on materials from our course.
  • TIP 3: Better essays tend to use information and quotations from all of the documents you choose rather than relying on one.
  • TIP 4: Don’t exceed 950 words, but anything much shorter really can’t manage the assignment adequately so aim for 900 words or so.


Your thesis should be the final sentence of your introductory paragraph.

After the introduction, each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that connects to the thesis. These body paragraphs must use evidence to support the larger claim with quotations and/or paraphrasing from the sources.

This evidence should come from at least three of the primary sources provided for your chosen question. One of these sources must be “An Act Concerning Servants and Slaves” (1705). You can certainly use more, if you wish.

You MUST cite your evidence—whether you use direct quotes or when you paraphrase. To use ideas without proper citation is plagiarism and is a violation of OU’s integrity code. For more on plagiarism and how to avoid it see: http://www.ou.edu/content/dam/integrity/docs/nine_things_you_should_know.pdf

  • Your essay should conclude with a summary paragraph that demonstrates a deeper understanding of the topic, created by the argument of the paper.
  • Throughout the essay, sentences should be clear, logically organized, and efficient. Quotes and evidence need to be smoothly integrated into sentences and paragraphs, and both your spelling and grammar must be correct.
  • You do not need to use fancy vocabulary. Simpler is better.

After you’ve completed your first draft, please proofread out loud.

Grading Criteria: 100 total points (90 = A, 80 = B, 70 = C, 60=D)

Your grade will be determined based on the following areas:

  • Does your thesis answer the questions raised in the prompt? How arguable is your thesis? (20 points)
  • Did you provide effective evidence to back up the thesis, chosen carefully from the three (or more) documents provided? (25 points)
  • Does your essay move logically through in an introduction, body paragraphs with topic sentences, and a conclusion. Is it the right length? (35 points)
  • Do you use sentences and did you proofread the essay for spelling mistakes, basic grammar, and proper citations for quotations and paraphrasing? (20 points)