Skills: This assignment will help you build on the skills you developed in the shorter essays, including the skills of supporting an argument with evidence, including identifying pertinent information in your sources, integrating evidence into your writing, and properly citing the evidence you use.
Knowledge: This assignment will also help you to think about the tensions between inclusion and exclusion that have existed throughout American history and the impact these tensions have had on the lives of one group of people.
Task: Write a 5-6 page essay that evaluates how inclusive the United States was during the 19th century for one of the groups of people we have discussed this semester, taking a clear stand on whether the 19th century represented positive or negative change for that group.
One major theme in the history of 19th century America is the tension that existed between inclusion and exclusion in defining who was considered an “American.” In many ways the 19th century was a time of great inclusivity, when many people sought to become Americans and succeeded, but at the same time, it was an age of great discrimination and social injustice. Various groups of immigrants sought not only entry to the country, but citizenship and equal treatment once they were here. Other groups of people who had been born in the United States—including African Americans, women, and increasingly the working class—felt that although they might legally be citizens they faced inequality and injustice in society. Still others, like the Native Americans, were not considered American citizens and perhaps did not wish to be, but still sought justice and an end to discrimination.
For this essay, pick ONE of the groups of people whose lives you have read about this semester—immigrants (either in general, or focusing on one particular group we’ve discussed), the working class, women, Native Americans, or African Americans. Then write a 5-6 page essay in which you evaluate how inclusive the United States was in the 19th century for the group you chose. What changes to their social or political status, if any, took place during this century? What changes did they want to see in their status—i.e. what did they want their lives in the United States to be like? What actions did they take to try to improve their status or their lives?
Be sure to take a stand on whether or not the 19th century represented positive or negative change for your group—you might conclude that conditions improved a lot for them over the course of the century, that things didn’t really change, that conditions actually worsened for them, or that things improved in some ways but not in others. Either way, make sure that your position on this question is clearly stated in your thesis statement in your introduction.
Your best sources of information for most groups will be our online textbook, The American Yawp, but you should also utilize the other course readings that deal with your group, if there are any. As always, be sure to provide citations to let the reader know where you are finding your information, both when you are using a direct quote from the readings or when you are summarizing material from the book in your own words. You do not need a works cited page or bibliography.