Professor Brosnan, HIST 1493—030

The first paper will be an approximately 1000-­word essay based on primary sources that address the issue of lynching at the turn of the twentieth century. Between 1880 and 1930, mobs in the United States lynched more than 4,600 people, and more than 3,300 of the victims 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 deepen their understanding of American history generally and of these events in particular?

Primary Sources

1. Excerpt from Thomas Dixon, The Leopard’s Spots (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1902), 365-71 » Download [PDF] or on Canvas

2. Thomas Nelson, “The Lynching of Negroes: Its Cause and Its Prevention“, The North American Review, Vol. 178, No. 566 (Jan., 1904), pp. 33-48 » Download [PDF] or on Canvas

3. Senator Benjamin R.“Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, Speech before the Senate, March 1900 » Download [PDF] or on Canvas

4. Mary Church Terrell, “Lynching from a Negro’s Point of View“, The North American Review, Vol. 178, No. 571 (Jun., 1904), pp. 853-868 » Download [PDF] or on Canvas

5. Ida B. Wells, “Lynch Law in America,” Speech in Chicago, 1902 » Download [PDF] or on Canvas

Requirements and Deadlines

  • You must submit your paper to Canvas for your discussion section no later than 8 a.m. on Tuesday, September 19.
  • The paper should be submitted as a Word document
  • This paper should be 1000-­1200 words long (around 3-­4 pages).
  • You must integrate and analyze a minimum of three of the above sources in your paper
  • This paper is worth 100 points.
  • All papers must include footnotes and a bibliography formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style. See the Citation Guide at A pdf of the citation guide also appears on Canvas.

Writing the Essay

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

  • Thesis and Introduction: 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.
  • Using Quotations: 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.
  • Structure: 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.