David Chappell


The papers in this course are exercises in research and writing. They are designed to enhance both analytical and communication skills and to provide a deeper understanding of history.

First Paper: Primary Sources

A short essay based on this set of four primary sources

  1. Excepts from The Black Codes of Mississippi” (1865)
  2. Jourdan Anderson to his old master” (1865)
  3. Frederick Douglass, “What the Black Man Wants” (1865)
  4. Testimony on the Ku Klux Klan in Congressional Hearing” (1872)

and the following secondary source:

5. W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, “Reconstruction and its Benefits” American Historical Review,  15 (July 1910):  781-799.

Based on your reading of these five sources: What was life like for newly emancipated African Americans in the South in the years after the Civil War and how did they respond to those conditions?

Details, Requirements, and Deadlines

  • This paper is worth 100 points (out of 1000 for the class grade), or 10%.
  • It is due on Canvas by Thursday, Sep. 29 at noon. Your TA may also require a hard copy to be submitted in discussion section of week six.
  • It should be 1250 words (around 4 pages in 12-point font).
  • Your essay must have a title that reflects your core theme or argument.
  • Proofread your paper carefully to avoid spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Late papers cannot be accepted unless the circumstances are acute.
  • You must include footnotes and a bibliography in Chicago Manual of Style See the Citation Guide on the ExploreHistory web site.
  • The paper will be returned in discussion in Week Seven.

Writing the Essay

The ExploreHistory web site features tutorials to help you with the following essential elements of a strong paper:

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 early drafts. 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 from the sources. Quote when you’ve made an assertion your reader is unlikely to accept without proof. After you quote, always explain: analyze the quoted material carefully to ensure that your quotations support the points you are making.

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.