The purpose of this assignment is to work on how to analyze a primary source. Your goal is to analyze your source excerpt as deeply and as thoroughly as possible. Do not simply provide a general summary or overview of your source. Think concretely and critically about its content, its historical context, the historical cultural values that shape it, and its relevance to your research. What are the author’s tone, style, and argument? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
In structuring your Primary Source Analysis Essay, you must address the following questions. Do not simply list answers to the questions below. Rather, you must write your paper in essay form. It should have an introduction, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. You do not need to address the questions in order, but be sure that you address all questions that are relevant to your source in your essay. Your essay must be a polished piece of writing. I will grade it for both content and style.
Essays must be 750-1000 words in length and double spaced. This essay is due in class and online on canvas as well.
You must choose a primary source from the list below. If you would like to use a different source you must receive approval from the professor first. These sources are available in the Voices of Freedomtextbook.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Home Life”
Frederick Douglass, “The Composite Nation”
Ida B. Wells, “Crusade for Justice”
William Graham Sumner on Social Darwinism
Mary Church Terrell, “What It Means to Be Colored in the Capital of the United States”
What type of source is it? (newspaper article, letter, speech, etc.)
When was it created?
Where was it created?
Who created it?
What is the author’s place in society? (profession, status, class, gender, ethnicity, etc.)
How might the factors listed in the question above shape the author’s perspective in this source?
Why do you think the author created this source?
Does the author have an argument? If so, what is it?
Who is the intended audience for this source?
How might the intended audience shape the perspective of this source?
Under what specific historical circumstances was this source created?
What larger historical events, processes, or structures might have influenced this text?
Is this source consistent with what you know about the historical record from that time?
Content of the Source
What historical facts do you learn from this source?
What perspectives or other cultural factors might have shaped the message of this source?
What historical perspectives are left out of this source?
What questions are left unanswered by this source?
Relevance of the Source
Why is this perspective important?
What does this source tell you about the history of everyday life in the nineteenth century United States?
How might this source confirm or contradict issues raised in other primary sources?
How might this source confirm or contradict issues raised in secondary sources?
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