Professor Shelden, HIST 1483–020

This paper will be an approximately 1000-word essay based on the set of primary sources provided below (and available in your course pack). Your task is to use those sources to develop an argument about an important issue 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?


  1. Court Ruling on Anthony Johnson & His Servant (1655)
  2. The Secret Diary of William Byrd II (1709-1711)
  3. Excerpt from William Snelgrave’s “New Account of Some Parts of Guinea, and the Slave Trade” (1734)
  4. Excerpt from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olauduh Equiano (1789)

Requirements and Deadlines

  • The paper is due to your TA in lecture on Tuesday, September 20 (the fifth week of the semester).
  • The paper will be submitted in hard copy and on Canvas.
  • The paper should be 900-1200 words long (around 3-4 pages) and include a word count at the end.
  • This paper is worth 100 points (out of 1000 for the class grade).
  • All papers must include footnotes formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style. See the Citation Guide on the Exploring U.S. History web site or at the back of Mary Lynn Rampolla’s Pocket Guide to Writing in History.

Writing the Essay

Success in this assignment will depend on careful reading and clear writing.  Work closely with your TA and use the resources available in Rampolla’s Pocket Guide and the Exploring U.S. History website to include the following in your paper:

  • A strong thesis in your opening paragraph
  • Body paragraphs that begin with clear topic sentences and support your thesis with quotations from the primary documents
  • Historical writing that carefully guides the reader through your argument