History 1493—030

Professor Jennifer Holland

The first paper will be an approximately 1000-word essay based on the set of primary sources provided below. These sources are also available in your coursepack. All these sources address the issue of lynching and accusations of rape at the turn of the twentieth century. Between 1880 and 1930, mobs lynched over 4600 people, over 3300 of whom were African Americans.  You will interrogate the origins and dynamics of this violence through contemporary explanations of it.

Your task is to use those sources to develop an argument about lynching in its historical context. Imagine your audience as intelligent readers craving new knowledge about the past, but unfamiliar with these documents. What can you tell them about the sources that will surprise them—that will deepen their understanding of American history?

The Sources (Click to access)

Requirements and Deadlines

  • This paper is due February 12 at the beginning of lecture. Bring a hard copy to class and submit an electronic copy on Canvas.
  • This paper should be 900-1200 words long (around 3-4 pages).
  • You must use at least three (3) of the four (4) provided sources in your paper.
  • This paper is worth 150 points.
  • All papers must include footnotes and a bibliography formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style. See the Citation Guide on the ExploreHistory website.

Writing the Essay

Success in these assignments will depend on careful research and clear writing.  The website features tutorials to help you:

  • Crafting a Thesis: A strong thesis goes beyond simply reporting what you found; it uses the evidence to broaden, qualify, or even contradict our understanding of an important theme in U.S. history. Your thesis may emerge gradually as you wrestle with your documents. In your finished paper, however, feature your thesis in the introduction.


  • Working the Evidence: Most of a history essay should consist of “evidence paragraphs,” which develop and support the thesis with quotations. Quote when you’ve made an assertion your reader is unlikely to accept without proof. After you quote, always explain: try to tease unforeseen implications out of the evidence; try to fend off a naysayer’s objection to your reading of the quotation.


  • Structuring the Essay: As your paragraphs begin to emerge from this process of working the evidence, unify each one with a topic sentence, and arrange them in a sequence that builds toward your strongest claims. Your finished essay should thus feature a clearly sign-posted order as it advances from the introduction through your body paragraphs and, finally, to your conclusion.