US history 1877-present

Primary sources are the key to historical research. Using documents from the time period being studied is the only way we can begin to try to understand the past. Primary sources are any documents from the time period: letters, speeches, diaries, newspapers. They do not necessarily have to be written sources; films, songs, photographs and paintings all reflect the times in which they were created.For this assignment, I would like you to read and evaluate a particular primary source. I would prefer that you use a written document, but you may also use images or any other primary document. Please contact me if you have questions about how appropriate your choice of document is. The document must be from American history, and it must be from the time period 1880-present. In your analysis, I would like you to address the following questions:1.Briefly describe the document. What is it, who authored it, when, and for what purpose? This should be done in the space of a paragraph or so.2. Place the document in historical context. What historical circumstances surround the document, its author, and its purpose? Be specific in this discussion. Consider not only events, but cultural trends. Thus, if your document was written during the Twenties, you might want to consider the prosperity of the period, the rise of the “New Woman” or the “New Negro”, or the tension between traditionalists and modernists. This discussion should not simply be a broad overview of a decade, but should be specific and focused on the contextual issues that seem most important to providing a background for this particular document. Thus, in the previous example of the Twenties, while you might address the prosperity of this period, you might not need to address the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. This section of the essay should have a bit more depth than the first part, and might be two or three (or more) paragraphs.3. Analyze the document. What is its argument? How does it attempt make these points? Why is the argument being presented? How does it reflect the cultural context in which the document was created? What elements of cultural context seem to be missing? (if a document created in the 1930s doesn’t seem to refer to the Depression, that would seem to be a significant omission). This section should form the bulk of your essay; the first two sections set up this final analysis. You should use specific quotes from the document to support your analysis.When developing your analysis, consider the following points:What is the purpose of the document? Why was it written?What is the argument of the document? What point/points does it try to convince us to believe or agree with?How can this document help us to understand the thoughts and actions of Americans in this era?How does it help us understand the American experience?You should address these questions in a 3-5 page essay* (typed and double-spaced). This is not a research paper on the document you choose, but is meant to be a close reading and analysis of this document. Thus, while you are welcome to look at outside sources for assistance in analyzing this document, the heart of the essay should not be a report on the person or group who created the document, or the period in which it was created, or even on the document itself. Rather, it should be a close reading and analysis of what the document says, and how it says this.*If you prefer to address these issues through an alternate format to an essay, you may do so. This might be a video, presentation, short story, poem, or other format. There are two conditions to doing so. First, you must answer the questions above in developing your analysis in order to meet the requirements of the assignment. You also must consult with me in advance to share what you are doing, so we can be sure you are meeting the requirements of the assignment.
Example: If I were to choose Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, I might address the first question in the following way: “Lincoln gave this speech in September, 1863, at the commemoration of the cemetery for soldiers killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.” While I might include a bit more information, this segment would be brief; not more than a few sentences.For the second question, I would note that the speech was given at the height of the Civil War, following a major Union victory. Lincoln’s address was meant to explain the war effort, and to firmly establish why such sacrifices were necessary. The speech was also given at a time when some were questioning the reasons for the war.For the third question, I would argue that Lincoln firmly committed the nation to ending slavery, not by directly stating this fact, but by appealing to American values of equality and freedom. By arguing that the cause for which the soldiers had died as “new birth of freedom”, Lincoln clarified that the end goal of the war was to free the slaves, not simply to restore the Union. This suggests that there was some uncertainty on this point at the time.