Draft an introduction for your historical event analysis.

The Struggle for Civil Rights

From the earliest colonial days, American history has been haunted by the specter of African slavery. Even after its legal abolition in 1865 America’s “original sin,” as James Madison first called it, lived on through a deeply entrenched system of legal, social, and economic discrimination against African Americans. (Madison, 1820)

(Click button for citation) 

The movement to overturn that systemic discrimination has been ongoing for more than 150 years. The most blatant form of racial discrimination—the system of  de jure segregation* enacted in the South, which legally required the discriminatory treatment of African Americans—was essentially abolished by federal legislation, including the Voting Rights Act, in the 1960s. But the problem of  de facto segregation* has long been a fact of life not only in the South but throughout the nation.

It continued—in the segregated schools of cities such as Boston, and the segregated housing markets of cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles—long after the legal and political battles of the modern Civil Rights Movement* had ended. While African Americans, as a group, have made significant gains in income and educational attainment over the last 50 years, de facto segregation continues to affect many aspects of American life. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012; National Center for Education Statistics, 2012)

In this theme, we will focus on the modern Civil Rights Movement, looking at efforts to affirm and expand African-American rights in two specific areas that have been central to the overall civil rights struggle: voting and public education. The fight to end the disenfranchisement of African-American voters and secure their right to vote, free from intimidation and legal obstruction, culminated with the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The struggle to desegregate public schools and win equal educational opportunities for African-American children—first affirmed in the landmark Supreme Court case,  Brown v. Board of Education (1954)*—has continued for generations. In this theme, we will look specifically at the tumultuous and emotionally charged effort to desegregate Boston’s public schools in the mid-1970s.

We will use these two case studies to examine the historical concept of contingency* and to learn how to use historical evidence* to draw conclusions about the impact of historical events on American society, through the process of historical analysis*.

Objectives Icon

Learning Objectives

In this learning block, you will:

· Review the historical context behind the struggle for civil rights for African Americans, the core concept of this theme

· Analyze the relationship between the following key approaches to studying history: research question, historical evidence, and thesis statement

· The Early Struggle for Civil Rights

· The end of the Civil War brought the legal abolition of slavery by the Thirteenth Amendment, the first of the three so-called Civil War Amendments*. But the end of slavery did not bring equality for the former slaves.

· While the southern states had to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment as a condition of their readmission to the Union, most of them quickly enacted laws to close off opportunities to the newly freed slaves and deny them the rights of citizenship. The postwar Black Codes*—based on older southern laws that sought to limit the freedoms of freed blacks in the years before the Civil War—barred African Americans from voting, denied them most legal rights, and restricted their ability to find work outside of plantations. Such laws laid the groundwork for the later Jim Crow laws, which institutionalized segregation in all walks of life throughout the South. (Dunning, 1907)


· The house in Atlanta where Martin Luther King Jr. was born is now part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. Click on the image above to go to the National Park Service’s “Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement” website. (Click button for citation) 

· In response to the Black Codes, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which formally made African Americans citizens. To further safeguard the citizenship rights of the freed slaves, Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868. The Reconstruction Acts, passed in 1867 and 1868, essentially placed the southern states under military rule for a decade, allowing for a brief period in which freed African Americans in the South enjoyed political rights.

· The profound significance of the Fourteenth Amendment was that, through its Equal Protection and Due Process clauses, it prohibited the states from abridging the rights and liberties guaranteed to all citizens under the Constitution. In reality, however, for African Americans through the end of the 19th century (and well beyond), the promise of equal protection and due process went unrealized. The southern states flouted the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Supreme Court refused to interpret it as making the Bill of Rights binding on the states. (Foner, 1988)

· The Black Codes also led Congress to pass the Fifteenth Amendment (ratified in 1870), which guaranteed African Americans the right to vote. It did so by decreeing that citizens’ right to vote could not be denied or abridged based on race, color, or prior slave status. Despite the Fifteenth Amendment, southern states continued to deprive blacks of their voting rights by imposing voter-qualification restrictions (e.g., literacy tests and property-ownership requirements) that effectively disenfranchised African Americans. (Valelly, 2009)

· The Fifteenth Amendment divided the pioneering women’s rights movement, which sought the franchise for women as well as for African Americans. As we saw in Theme: Communicating Historical Ideas, some leaders in the nascent woman suffrage movement opposed ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment because it did not also extend the voting right to women. Women did not gain the right to vote until ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.

· Jim Crow Laws and the Segregated South

· Unyielding southern resistance to black equality led Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which prohibited racial segregation in public accommodations such as hotels, restaurants, and transportation. It also barred the exclusion of African Americans from jury service. But when the federal government ended its military occupation of the South in 1877, marking the end of Reconstruction*, the southern states further defied federal efforts to guarantee the civil rights of blacks. (Foner, 1988)


· “Colored” water cooler in streetcar terminal, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1939. (Click button for citation) 

· Southern state legislatures enacted Jim Crow laws*, which discriminated against African Americans by requiring racial segregation of schools, restaurants, hotels, theaters, and other public accommodations. Under Jim Crow laws, the southern states created separate facilities for whites and blacks in every walk of life, covering all public accommodations. This institutionalization of race-based separation throughout the South, which endured for a hundred years after the Civil War, was known as  de jure segregation* because it was backed by law.

· After Reconstruction, African Americans throughout the South faced state legal systems that denied them equal justice and routinely violated their due-process rights. The courts and law enforcement in the South abided lynching* and other white mob violence committed against blacks. And the federal courts, well into the 1900s, proved unwilling or unable to uphold the civil rights of blacks. (Equal Justice Initiative, 2015)

· Disenfranchisement Despite the Fifteenth Amendment

· After Reconstruction, the southern states devised obstacles to block African Americans from voting despite the Fifteenth Amendment, which decreed that the right to vote could not be denied on the basis of race or color. To circumvent the Fifteenth Amendment’s intent, southern states employed devices for determining voter eligibility which, though not expressly racial, had the particular effect of disenfranchising blacks, who were overwhelmingly poor and uneducated.


· A poll tax receipt. Image courtesy of the African American Intellectual History Society.

· These devices included literacy tests, poll taxes (a tax paid as a qualification for voting), and property-ownership requirements. Many states in the South also imposed a so-called grandfather clause, which restricted voting to those whose grandfathers had voted before Reconstruction (i.e., pre 1867). Grandfather clauses effectively denied the descendants of slaves the right to vote. (Valelly, 2009) All of these legally enacted devices represented forms of de jure segregation—as opposed to de facto segregation, which lacked the force of law.

· Black disenfranchisement continued in one form or another throughout the South for a century after the Civil War.

· Separate but Equal

· Legal segregation in the South was validated by the Supreme Court in a landmark decision at the close of the 1800s. Homer Plessy, an African American, defied a Louisiana segregation law by riding in a “whites only” railroad car. He was arrested when he refused to move to a car reserved for blacks as mandated by the state law. Plessy challenged the constitutionality of the law on the grounds that segregation violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

· The Supreme Court rejected this challenge, ruling in  Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)* that state laws requiring racial segregation in public facilities are constitutional if the facilities are “separate but equal.” The Court’s decision ignored the fact that most facilities available to African Americans were not equal but vastly inferior; nonetheless, Plessy and the doctrine of “separate but equal” remained the law of the land for more than half a century. (Medley, 2003)

· Short Answer Icon

· Week 5 Short Responses

· Developing a Thesis, Step 1

· The Civil Rights Movement touched on many different aspects of American life: politics, religion, economics, culture, and the law, to name just a few. In this learning block, we’re going to ask you to develop an informed point of view about one aspect of the Civil Rights Movement.

· You’ve already had some experience in developing a thesis statement for your writing plan. In this learning block, we’re going to take that process one step further, showing you how to refine your thesis into a sharper, more strongly worded statement that expresses a clear point of view.

· The first step: develop a research question about the the Civil Rights Movement, based on the material contained in this learning block. You should use a specific historical lens that you feel is relevant to this issue. Historical lenses can include such perspectives as political, social, religious, military, and economic history. Be sure to respond to each question in 1-2 complete sentences, using proper grammar.

· To refresh your memory about historical lenses, you can return to  Theme: Approaches to History, Learning Block 1-2, Page 2 .


· Week 5 Short Responses – Question 1

· In the space below, specify which historical lens you’d like to use for this exercise.

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· Week 5 Short Responses – Question 2

· Next, formulate a research question about the civil rights movement (historical time from 1954 – 1968), using the lens you’ve chosen.

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· References

· References

· Dunning, W. (1907). Reconstruction, Political and Economic, 1865-1877. New York: Harper & Brothers.

· Equal Justice Initiative (2015). Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror. Retrieved from  http://www.eji.org/lynchinginamerica

· Foner, E. (1988). Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877. New York: Harper & Row.

· Medley, K. (2003). We as Freemen: Plessy v. Ferguson: The Fight Against Legal Segregation. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing.

· Valelly, R. (2009). The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

· U.S. Census Bureau (2012). American Community Survey. Retrieved

· The Struggle for Civil Rights, 1900 – 1950

· The first half of the 20th century saw limited progress in the fight to secure the civil rights of African Americans. Booker T. Washington, president of the Tuskegee Institute and the leading figure in the African-American community in the early 1900s, was an outspoken proponent of black education and entrepreneurship. But Washington was criticized within the African-American community for his strategic decision not to challenge Jim Crow laws* and the disenfranchisement of black voters directly.


· W.E.B. Du Bois, 1918. (Click button for citation) 

· More militant African-American leaders, including W.E.B. DuBois and Ida Wells, founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP*) in 1909, with the mission of actively fighting against racial prejudice. The organization focused in its early years largely on efforts to prevent lynchings* in the South and on mounting legal challenges to Jim Crow legislation. (Finch, 1981)

· The return of thousands of African-American veterans of World War I highlighted the huge divide between America’s rhetorical commitment to democracy and individual freedom and the reality of segregation, disenfranchisement, and anti-black violence in the South. This gave rise to the New Negro movement*, which sparked the larger cultural and intellectual movement known as the Harlem Renaissance* (Gates, H.L., 1988)


· The Lafayette Theatre, Harlem, 1936. (Click button for citation) 

· Beginning shortly before World War I, the Great Migration* saw an estimated six million African Americans move from the deep South to the North, Midwest, and West over the next 60 years. Fleeing segregation and poverty, many of these African Americans found work in industrial cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and Gary, Indiana. While many African Americans had previously been suspicious of organized labor, A. Philip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, became the leading voice for black workers within the labor movement. As the number of African Americans working in industrial jobs swelled, organized labor became increasingly outspoken in its advocacy for black workers’ rights; in the 1950s and 1960s, labor would be a powerful ally of the civil rights movement. (Lemann, 1992)

· The Great Depression of the 1930s hit African Americans disproportionally hard; the collapse of cotton prices drove thousands of Southern sharecroppers to the brink (Thompson and Clarke, 1935), and the scarcity of factory jobs led to increased racial tensions in Northern industrial cities. The unemployment rate among African Americans was estimated to exceed 50 percent—more than twice the rate among whites. (Wolters, 1970)

· African Americans, traditionally supporters of the Republican Party because of its historical opposition to slavery, were initially skeptical of Democrat Franklin Roosevelt, who had won the Presidency with strong backing from the South. Early New Deal* programs were not aimed toward the African-American community, and some, such as the Federal Housing Authority, initially reinforced existing patterns of segregation. But other programs, such as the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps, provided jobs to substantial numbers of African Americans, especially in the North. By the end of the decade, many African Americans in the North were strongly behind the New Deal, and urban black voters began a major shift that would eventually make them an integral part of the Democratic electoral coalition. (Reed, 2008)

· America’s entry into World War II effectively ended the Depression, as factories geared up for the war effort. At the same, time, more than a million African Americans joined the armed forces; when they returned from war in 1945, they embodied the argument that African Americans were entitled to the same freedoms for which America had fought in Europe and the Pacific. (Taylor, 2014)

· While resistance to the campaign for African-American civil rights was still deeply entrenched, the late 1940s saw a couple of notable victories: Jackie Robinson famously broke baseball’s “Color Line”* in 1947, and in 1948, President Harry S Truman issued an executive order that desegregated the U.S. military. While these breakthroughs were largely symbolic, more substantive gains were just over the horizon.

· Short Answer Icon

· Week 5 Short Responses

· Developing a Thesis, Step 2

· The second step in developing your thesis statement—which is really just another way of saying, your point of view on this issue—is to do some research into the historical evidence*. To refresh your memory about historical evidence, click on this link to return to  Theme: Approaches to History, Learning Block 2-2, Page 3 , where you can review the graphic about primary and secondary sources. You can also use the material contained in this learning block to give you some ideas about where to conduct your research. Be sure to respond to each question in 1-2 complete sentences, using proper grammar.


· Week 5 Short Responses – Question 3

· First, go back and review the research question you developed in Step 1. For Step 2, first name two different primary sources that you might use to answer that question. Be as specific as you can. Your primary sources should be found using the Shapiro Library.

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· Week 5 Short Responses – Question 4

· Next, name two different secondary sources you could use to answer your research question. Again, be as specific as you can. Your secondary sources should be found using the Shapiro Library.

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· References

· References

· Finch, M. (1981). The NAACP: Its Fight for Justice. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1981.

· Gates, H. L. (1988). “The Trope of a New Negro and the Reconstruction of the Image of the Black.” Representations, Vol. 24 (Fall 1988), 129-155.

· Lemann, N. (1992) The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America. New York: Vintage Books.

· Reed, A. (2008). “Race and the New Deal Coalition.” The Nation, April 7, 2008.

· Taylor, C. (2014). Patriotism Crosses the Color Line: African Americans in World War II. Retrieved from  http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/world-war-ii/essays/patriotism-crosses-color-line-african-americans-world-war-ii

The Modern Civil Rights Movement, 1954 – 1968

The NAACP’s strategy of mounting legal challenges to Jim Crow laws* had produced minor gains in the first decades of the 20th century. In 1938, the Supreme Court sided with the NAACP in ruling that states that provide a law school for whites had to provide in-state legal education to African Americans as well. And in 1944, the Court struck down the “white primary” system that effectively barred African Americans from voting in Democratic primaries in the South.


Thurgood Marshall, NAACP’s chief counsel, who argued the case before the Supreme Court for the plaintiffs. (Click button for citation) 

The greatest victory, however, came in a case involving public elementary and secondary schools. In Brown v. Board of Education (1954)*, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”—overturning Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)* and ushering in an intense period of activism that would, within a generation, tear down the facade of legal segregation. (Cottrol et al, 2004)

Because of the magnitude of the Brown decision, many scholars consider 1954 to mark the beginning of the modern Civil Rights Movement*. During the roughly 15 years following Brown, a wide range of African-American leaders and organizations sought to galvanize American public opinion—and, as a result, political will—against the structures of de jure segregation* in the South: segregated schools, “whites only” lunch counters and restrooms, and separate “colored” sections on public buses, to name only a few.

The movement’s tools were civil disobedience and nonviolent protests, including boycotts, sit-ins, and protest marches. Very often, nonviolent civil rights protesters met with violence at the hands of Southern law enforcement officers and civilians; some of these confrontations were covered on the network television news, and the images of police brutally beating peaceful protesters helped generate public sympathy and support for the cause of civil rights. (Bodroghkozy, 2012)

The modern Civil Rights Movement addressed a wide range of issues. While its immediate focus was on the South—the states of the former Confederacy, where segregation actually had the force of law—the movement sought to confront racial prejudice and injustice throughout American society. Click on the tabs below to learn more specifics about the civil rights movement.

Select a list item tab, press enter, then search down for text. When you hear End of tab content, go back to the next list item to access the next list item tab.

· Public Education

· The Montgomery Bus Boycott

· Freedom Rides

· Voting Rights

· The March on Washington

· Fair Housing

Public Education


James Meredith, escorted by U.S. marshals, integrated the University of Mississippi. (Click button for citation) 

The Supreme Court’s Brown decision outlawed segregation in America’s public schools, but the process of school desegregation proved to be difficult, drawn-out, and highly confrontational. In 1957, the governor of Arkansas called out the National Guard to prevent nine African-American students from enrolling at Central High School in Little Rock. President Eisenhower ordered troops of the 101st Airborne to escort the students to school, but a year later, the state closed all four high schools in the city, rather than integrate them. A year would pass before the Supreme Court ordered the schools reopened. (Bates, 1962.)

In 1962, the governor of Mississippi refused to allow an African-American war veteran, James Meredith, to enroll at the University of Mississippi. President Kennedy intervened, ordering 500 U.S. marshals to escort Meredith to class; thousands of white protesters responded with a riot that killed two people and injured more than 300, including 166 marshals and 40 soldiers. A similar but less violent confrontation took place at the University of Alabama in 1963, when President Kennedy had to federalize the Alabama National Guard and order the troops to enforce the integration order.

End of tab content.

Fifty years after the fact, societal perceptions of the modern civil rights movement tend to focus on a few heroic figures, such as Rosa Parks, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers. And many students who did not live through the era may assume that the movement itself was unified and had a clear-cut agenda.

In fact, there were many prominent civil rights leaders, not all of whom agreed at any given time. And there were a multitude of civil rights organizations; the so-called Big Four included the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC*); the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE*); the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC*); and the NAACP*, among many others. Some of these groups were more inclined to compete with each other than to cooperate.


Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, at the podium (right). At left is heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay. (Click button for citation) 

These groups had somewhat different agendas, with some more focused on voting rights, say, and others more focused on housing and economic issues. Nor did everyone in the movement agree on the principle of nonviolent protest; some leaders, such as Robert F. Williams of North Carolina, believed strongly that African Americans needed to arm themselves and fight back against anti-black violence. Other, more militant leaders, such as Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, rejected the philosophy of nonviolence and argued that African Americans should separate themselves completely from whites.

While it is not accurate to say that the civil rights movement had any one, single leader, it is nonetheless clear that the movement began to crumble after the assassination of Martin Luther King in April 1968. The loss of King as an eloquent advocate of nonviolent protest definitely hurt the movement. And perhaps more important, the wave of racial violence that convulsed many cities in the wake of King’s death shattered whatever fragile political consensus might have been forming behind the idea of comprehensive reforms to address the root causes of racial discrimination and African-American poverty. (Garrow, 2004)

While the modern civil rights movement succeeded, in large measure, in bringing about the end of legal segregation in the Old South, the problems of racism and inequality—the legacy of “America’s original sin”—have yet to be fully addressed.

Short Answer Icon

Week 5 Short Responses

Developing a Thesis, step 3

Use the historical evidence you gathered is Step 2 to answer the research question you posed in Step 1. The answer to your research question is your thesis statement. Be sure to respond to each question in 1-2 complete sentences, using proper grammar. Again, the material contained in this learning block may be helpful to you as you frame a response.

Week 5 Short Responses – Question 5

Construct a thesis statement that provides an answer to the research question you posed in Step 1. Base your response on the historical evidence that’s been presented in this course so far, as well as any research you may have done on your own.

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Bates, D. (1987). The Long Shadow of Little Rock: A Memoir . Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press.

Bodroghkozy , A. (2012). Equal Time: Television and the Civil Rights Movement

Historical Contingency

Contingency* is the fourth of the “5 C’s of Historical Thinking” that we first encountered back in Theme: Approaches to History: Change, Context, Causality, Contingency, and Complexity. Take this moment to refresh your memory of  the 5C’s .

To understand the concept of contingency, we need to think of a few more C’s: the causes, course, and consequences* of a historical event. These three C’s help us look at the interrelationship, or contingency, between many historical events:

· The causes of a historical event are previous events, all of which have a causal relationship* with the later event;

· The course of a historical event consists of the many smaller events that make up the larger event; the course of an event is implied by the beginning and ending dates that define the event. The course of the modern Civil Rights Movement, for instance, consists of the many protests, demonstrations, and other political and social events that defined the movement, from 1954 through 1968; and

· The consequences of a historical event are the subsequent events that it, in turn, causes.


Learning Objectives

In this learning block, you will:

· Explore the concept of historical contingency

· Use historical contingency to help you assess the causes, course, and consequences of historical events

· Analyze the causes, course, and consequences of historical events

· What Is Contingency?

· Is history inevitable? Are the events of our time predetermined, incapable of being changed by anything we do?

· Ask those questions of a philosopher, a physicist, or a theologian, and you’re likely to get some interesting—and very convoluted—answers. But ask a historian, and what you’ll hear is a clear and simple NO.

· One of the fundamental principles of history is the concept of contingency*, the idea that each historical event depends (or is contingent on) previous events. Change one of those previous events, and you may change all the events that come after it. Or, to put it another way: history is not inevitable or predetermined, because everything that happens today can have an impact on what happens tomorrow. (Martin, 2016)

· Contingency is an important concept because it shows us how interconnected history really is, and because it requires us to explore those connections to understand the relative importance of different historical events. Such explorations have led to a historical approach known as counterfactual history*, in which historians use “what if?” questions (known as counterfactual conditionals) to try to figure out which events had a major impact on the course of history.

· Not all historians believe counterfactual history is legitimate; as Martin Bunzl points out, a lot of counterfactual history has no real grounding, and is based on speculation rather than historical evidence. (Bunzl, 2004) And there’s a real danger of slipping from counterfactual history into alternative history*, a literary genre that plays the what if? game for its entertainment value and is not a legitimate form of historical scholarship.

· Regardless of how you feel about counterfactual history, the concept of contingency is still an important—and very useful—way to look at the relationship among different historical events.


· Review Checkpoint

· To test your understanding of the content presented in this learning block, please click on the Question icon below. Click your selected response to see feedback displayed below it. If you have trouble answering, you are always free to return to this or any learning block to re-read the material.




· References

· References

· Bunzl, M. (2004). “Counterfactual History: A User’s Guide. “The American Historical Review, Vol. 109, No. 3, 845-858.

· Martin, D. (2016). Contingency. Retrieved from http://teachinghistory.org/teaching-materials/ask-a-master-teacher/24118, May 12, 2016.

· Exercise: Thinking About Contingency


· The following passage is from a chapter in the book Political Contingency: Studying the Unexpected, the Accidental, and the Unforeseen. This chapter, by the political scientist David R. Mayhew, looks at the impact of unforeseen events (such as, in the excerpt below, political assassinations) on the course of American political history.

· The passage below is excerpted from “Events as Causes: The Case of American Politics,” pages 99 to 140. Click on the title of the article to access a PDF of the entire book; scroll down to page 99 and read the entirety of Chapter 4. These readings are provided by the Shapiro Library. This reading is required. You will have to log into Shapiro Library with your SNHU credentials to access this article.

· A Word on Assassinations

· I have skimped on brief or short-term events, although there is no shortage of supremely important instances. In 1865, for example, crucial to the Republicans’ emergence as the country’s main opposition party were the so-called “Sack of Lawrence [Kansas]” by a pro-slavery mob and the caning of Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor. “These two acts, one on top of the other, traumatized the nation.” In the 1960s, key to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were the Birmingham and Selma confrontations—the police dogs and the rest—that riveted national attention on deep-southern practices courtesy of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., as impresario.

· But assassination may deserve a special word. Not easily subjected to systematic treatment—they are nearly in a category with the Nicaragua and Mexico earthquakes—they have been neglected as causal factors….I do not want to take up familiar speculations here on the order of: what if Lincoln had served out his full second term? I will stop at addressing two particularly energetic bouts of national policymaking—in fact, possibly the two most consequential exercises of American lawmaking since World War II.

· One was the “Reagan Revolution” of 1981—that is, the Republicans’ program of unprecedented tax and spending cuts enacted that year…[A]s of March 1981 the plan seemed to be headed for the rocks on Capitol Hill. Then John W. Hinckley, Jr. shot and nearly killed President Reagan. That brought on a “display of jaunty courage” by the president (as in his “Honey, I forgot to duck!”), which “turned Reagan into a national hero and immeasurably helped the passage of his fiscal program.” His survey ratings soared. “The legislative payoff was dramatic”: Moderate and conservative Democrats, hearing messages from home, signed on. The cuts were approved in a series of showdown votes that spring and summer. All this is entirely believable. Without the assassination episode: no Reagan Revolution.

· The other was the Great Society—or, more broadly, the extraordinary harvest of legislation enacted by a left-centered coalition on Capitol Hill during calendar 1964 and in the wake of the 1964 election during 1965. President Kennedy’s legislative record had been so-so, but then he was assassinated in November 1963. The impact was enormous, “All that Kennedy had tried to do, all that he stood for, became in some sense sanctified.” Lyndon Johnson took over the presidency with a “Let us continue” appeal: “We would be untrue to the trust he reposed in us, if we did not remain true to the tasks he relinquished when God summoned him.” As the new president, Johnson “possessed an enormous advantage that liberal predecessors had been denied since the late 1930s: a national mood so eager for strong presidential leadership that even Congress and interest groups had to take heed.” That advantage owed chiefly to “the impact of Kennedy’s assassination.” It helped make 1964 possibly the most productive legislative year since the 1930s….It is certainly plausible that, given the strong impulse toward state expansion in the 1960s and 1970s in this country and elsewhere, much of the content of the Great Society would have found its way into American policy sooner or later anyway. But we cannot know how much or when, and quite possibly a good deal of it would not have.

· Discussion


· Please review the discussion prompt for this module in Brightspace.


· You have reached the end of Learning Block 5-2. Click the Next button below to begin Learning Block 5-3.

The Struggle for Voting Rights

The Fifteenth Amendment, which specifically guaranteed the right of all male citizens to vote, regardless of their “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” was ratified in February of 1870. Almost a century later, the ability of African Americans to vote in many states—essentially, those of the Old South—was routinely and sometimes violently thwarted.

The obstacles to African-American voting that were erected over the course of the Jim Crow* era were formidable: poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses, and outright physical intimidation. In the 1960 Presidential election, according to estimates by the NAACP, only about a quarter of eligible African Americans cast a ballot. That number increased sharply, to almost 60 percent, in 1964, but African-American turnout in the South—where most blacks were not even able to register to vote—remained very low. (The New York Times, 2014)

Civil rights leaders had long recognized that safeguarding the right to vote was essential to expanding African-American rights in other spheres. But previous proposals to pass major voting-rights legislation—the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960—were watered down by Southern opponents in Congress and proved largely ineffectual. (Bardolph, 1970)

In the wake of Lyndon Johnson’s landslide victory in the 1964 Presidential election, civil rights leaders began a major push for a tough new voting-rights law. Johnson was sympathetic to their cause but wary of the political implications of a major fight for new civil rights legislation. But the brutal mistreatment of peaceful voting-rights protesters in Alabama, including the now-famous confrontation in Selma that became known as “Bloody Sunday,” galvanized public opinion and forced Johnson to act. (Issacharoff et al, 2012)

This learning block uses the history of the Voting Rights Act as the vehicle to hone your understanding of causality and contingency and to help you begin thinking about the use of historical evidence.


Learning Objectives

In this learning block, you will:

· Assess the causes and consequences of a historical event

· Consider the types of evidence you will need to understand the significance of a historical event




Bardolph, R. (1970). The Civil Rights Record: Black Americans and the Law, 1849-1970. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.

Issacharoff, S.; Karlan, P.; and Pildes, R. (2012). The Law of Democracy: Legal Structure of the Political Process. New York: Foundation Press.

The New York Times (2014, October 16). “Black Turnout in 1964, and Beyond.” Retrieved from  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/17/upshot/black-turnout-in-1964-and-beyond.html

The Voting Rights Act of 1965


An 1879 cartoon criticized the use of literacy tests to deny African Americans the right to vote. (Click button for citation) 

From the beginning, supporters and opponents of African-American civil rights both understood the critical importance of voting rights. Supporters strove, after the Civil War, to ensure that freed slaves would have the political power that comes with voting; toward that end, they passed the Fifteenth Amendment, to guarantee voting rights, and the Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871, to combat the Ku Klux Klan*‘s efforts to suppress black voting through intimidation and violence.

But federal enforcement of the Fifteenth Amendment effectively ceased with the end of Reconstruction* in 1877. Opponents knew that allowing African Americans to vote would threaten the structure of white supremacy on which the Jim Crow South was founded. In addition to physical intimidation, then, Southern whites erected an imposing set of legal obstacles to deter blacks from voting: poll taxes, whites-only primaries, literacy tests, property qualifications, and grandfather clauses.

In 1957, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about those legal obstacles in his “Give Us the Ballot” speech; in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson spoke about them in an address to Congress:

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· King: “Give Us the Ballot”

· Johnson: “Our Duty Must Be Clear”

King: “Give Us the Ballot”

[A]ll types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters. The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition. And so our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote. [Audience:] (Yes)

Give us the ballot, and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights.

Give us the ballot (Yes), and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law; we will by the power of our vote write the law on the statute books of the South (All right) and bring an end to the dastardly acts of the hooded perpetrators of violence.

Give us the ballot (Give us the ballot), and we will transform the salient misdeeds of bloodthirsty mobs (Yeah) into the calculated good deeds of orderly citizens.

Give us the ballot (Give us the ballot), and we will fill our legislative halls with men of goodwill (All right now) and send to the sacred halls of Congress men who will not sign a “Southern Manifesto” because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice. (Tell ’em about it)

Give us the ballot (Yeah), and we will place judges on the benches of the South who will do justly and love mercy (Yeah), and we will place at the head of the southern states governors who will, who have felt not only the tang of the human, but the glow of the Divine.

Give us the ballot (Yes), and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court’s decision of May seventeenth, 1954. (That’s right)

(You can find the full text of the speech  here . You can find an audio recording at  this link .

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The modern Civil Rights movement that arose in the wake of the  Brown* decision placed a high premium on winning federal legislation to enforce voting rights. The movement focused its efforts on the states of the South, because the de jure denial of voting rights was a uniquely Southern issue; virtually no such legal structures had been erected in the North or West to deny blacks the franchise. Three efforts to pass voting-rights legislation were derailed by Southern opposition in Congress: voting-rights provisions of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, and 1963 were watered down to the point of ineffectiveness.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was passed in the wake of President Kennedy’s assassination, included some voting-rights provisions but not the broad prohibition of literacy tests for which civil rights leaders had hoped. The Act’s primary focus, rather, was on ending segregation in public accommodations and in public education.

Following his landslide victory in the 1964 Presidential election, which also produced huge Democratic majorities in Congress, President Lyndon Johnson determined to push for a tough new voting-rights law. But his political advisers, concerned about the political impact of another civil rights battle so soon after passage of the Civil Rights Act, urged him to wait. (May, 2013)

In early 1965, Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders, including James Bevel of the SCLC*, began organizing voting-rights protests in Selma, Alabama, where the local sheriff had violently suppressed African-American voter registration efforts. In February, King and hundreds of other protesters were arrested for violating the city’s anti-parade ordinance. King responded by writing “A Letter from a Selma Alabama Jail,” which ran as an advertisement in The New York Times; the letter famously noted that, ” This is Selma, Alabama. There are more negroes in jail with me than there are on the voting rolls.” (King, 1965)


Alabama police attack Selma-to-Montgomery Marchers on Bloody Sunday, 1965. (Click button for citation) 

Shortly after King’s arrest, another voting-rights protest in Marion, Alabama, turned deadly when Alabama state troopers attacked the demonstrators; an African-American Army veteran named Jimmie Lee Jackson was fatally shot by police. At his funeral, James Bevel suggested that protesters march from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery to dramatize their cause. (May, 2013)

Two weeks later, on March 7, 1965, about 600 protesters, led by John Lewis and Hosea Williams of the SCLC, began marching out of Selma. As they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the demonstrators met a small army of state troopers and county deputies; the law officers began beating the unarmed protesters with nightsticks, fired tear gas into the crowd, and charged the protesters on horseback. A total of 17 protesters were hospitalized, and another 50 were treated for injuries in what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” (Reed, 1966)

(To read excerpts from first-person accounts of the Bloody Sunday protest,  go here. )

The violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge was captured by newspaper photographers and television news crews; the image of peaceful protesters being savagely beaten by the police outraged public opinion outside the South, and abroad. Eight days after Bloody Sunday, amid continuing violence against voting-rights demonstrators in Alabama, President Johnson addressed Congress and called for swift passage of his voting-rights proposal. Echoing the old spiritual that had become the anthem of the civil rights movement, Johnson declared that “We shall overcome” in the struggle for voting rights.

Despite fervent Southern opposition and a 24-day filibuster* in the Senate, the Voting Rights Act received final Congressional approval on August 4, 1965. Two days later, with Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks in attendance at the White House, Johnson signed the bill into law. (May, 2013)

The Impact of the Voting Rights Act

The immediate effects of the Voting Rights Act were quickly felt. Voter registration surged among African Americans in the states of the Old South, the region directly targeted by the law’s “special provisions.” By 1970, a majority of eligible African Americans had registered to vote in nine of the 11 former Confederate states. In Mississippi, black voter registration increased from just 6.7 percent in 1964, to 59.8 percent in 1967. (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2016; U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 2001)


President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 while Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others look on. (Click button for citation) 

This surge in voter registration has led some legal experts to characterize the Voting Rights Act as ” the single most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress.” (U.S. Department of Justice, 2009) For a summary of the Act’s key provisions,  click on this link.

Two key factors contributed to the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act. The first was its limited scope: the “special provisions” of the Act applied to only those states and localities with a demonstrated history of discrimination against African-American voting rights. This limited scope allowed the Justice Department to use its enforcement resources most effectively, in areas where the potential for discrimination was greatest. The second was the Act’s preclearance provision*, which prevented any changes in voting laws from taking effect unless they were approved by the Justice Department or a federal court. [The Supreme Court suspended the preclearance provision in 2013.]

Increased voter registration did not, however, translate immediately into increased political power for African Americans in the South. White-dominated state legislators responded to the Voting Rights Act by enacting new measures to limit the effectiveness of African-American voting: turning some formerly elective offices into appointive ones and changing many other elective offices to “at-large” seats, which diluted the impact of new black voters. Those same legislators also engaged in racial gerrymandering*, redrawing legislative and Congressional districts to maximize white voting power and limit the effectiveness of African-American votes. (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 2001)

Over time, Justice Department lawsuits reversed many of these political ploys. Key Supreme Court rulings, including  Wesberry v. Sanders (1964)*, sought to reduce the impact of racial gerrymandering by applying the concept of “one person, one vote” to the issue of legislative redistricting. And later amendments to the Act required states, under certain circumstances, to create majority-minority districts* to increase the odds that African Americans and other minority-group candidates would be elected to Congress.

At the same time, the overall increase in African-American voter registration was not matched by a similarly sharp rise in African-American voter turnout. Nationally, the proportion of African Americans who actually cast a ballot in a Presidential election peaked at 58.5 percent in 1964—the year before the Voting Rights Act was passed—and did not return to this level until Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2008. (Flippen, 2014) Obviously, African-American turnout increased in Southern states, where registration had increased so sharply, but it declined in non-Southern states.

Relatively low turnout among African-American voters is attributable to many different factors, including differences in income and education, as well as a perception that the political process is less relevant to their lives. (Fulwood, 2014) And relevance is, in some ways, related to race: like many other racial and ethnic groups, African Americans are significantly more likely to vote when a member of their own group is on the ballot. (Laney, 2011)

Without question, the Voting Rights Act has led to sharply increased representation of African Americans in Congress, state legislatures, and local offices. In 1964, for instance, only five African Americans served in Congress; by 2015, that number had increased to 48. (U.S House of Representatives, 2016) And between 1965 and 1985, the number of African-American state legislators in the former states of the Confederacy had increased from three to 176. (Grofman and Handley, 1991)

What remains open to question is whether increased African-American political representation has led to an improvement in the lives of most African Americans. On this point, there is conflicting evidence. Mississippi, for instance, in the mid-1990s had more African-American elected officials than any other state—yet per capita income for blacks in Mississippi was less than half that for whites, and levels of educational attainment were also significantly lower among blacks than among whites. At that same time, however, state spending on public housing and education had increased sharply in the years previous, and incidents of racial violence had decreased greatly. (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 2001) This mixed record is in fact typical of many states.

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Week 5 Short Responses

The concept of historical contingency* is all about causes, course, and consequences. (To refresh your memory about the different types of causes—including necessary causes* and contributory causes*—click on this link to return to  Theme: Communicating Historical Ideas, Learning Block 3-1, Page 3 .) The questions below are designed to get you thinking about the causes, course, and consequences of the Voting Rights Act. Be sure to respond to each question in 2-3 complete sentences, using proper grammar.

Week 5 Short Responses – Question 6

Name three specific historical events that can be considered contributory causes of the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Briefly explain why you believe each of these events contributed to the passage of the Act.

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Week 5 Short Responses – Question 7

Based on what you read about the passage of the Voting Rights Act on Page 1 of this learning block, name one event that was part of the course of this bill’s passage by Congress.

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Week 5 Short Responses – Question 8

Name three specific consequences caused by the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

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Flippen, A. (2014). “Black Turnout in 1964 and Beyond.” The New York Times, September 16, 2014. Retrieved from  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/17/upshot/black-turnout-in-1964-and-beyond.html?_r=0

The Voting Rights Act: Further Reading

What effect has the Voting Rights Act had on American politics in general? While the Act has clearly had an impact on voter registration and representation among African Americans, has it affected the political system more broadly?

While race is certainly not the only factor affecting voter turnout and voting patterns in American politics, political scientists and pollsters have long recognized that it is one of the most highly consequential. (Junn, 2000) To the extent that the Voting Rights Act opened up the political system to many more African Americans, it is reasonable to conclude that it had a significant impact on that system.

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One theory that’s popular among political scientists is that the Act, by bringing more African Americans into the political system as voters and as candidates, has made white voters more comfortable with the idea of voting for African Americans. Certainly, it seems reasonable to conclude that Barack Obama could never have won the presidency had the Voting Rights Act not been passed in 1965—or to put it another way, that Obama’s election was contingent on passage of the Voting Rights Act.

But the historical record is a bit more complicated than that. While the Voting Rights Act certainly brought more African Americans into the political system, it also produced negative reactions among some white voters; in the states of the former Confederacy, for instance, African Americans by and large win election to the state legislature only from districts where the electorate is overwhelmingly African-American, while majority-white districts rarely if ever elect African Americans. (Grofman and Handley, 1991) And it’s worth remembering that President Obama received only 43 percent of the white vote in 2008, and just 39 percent in 2012. (Roper Center, 2008; 2012)

President Jimmy Carter meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, 1978. (Click button for citation) 

Indeed, some political scientists believe that this pattern of “racially polarized” voting has contributed to more systemic changes in American politics. On the largest level, passage of the Voting Rights Act led to a major party realignment. After passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act by a Democratic-dominated Congress, white Southerners—who had previously identified strongly with the Democratic Party—shifted towards the Republicans, a move encouraged by President Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.” Over time, Southern voters began to replace conservative Democratic members of Congress with Republicans; this meant more Republicans in Congress but it also meant fewer conservative Democrats, which had the effect of making Congressional Democrats more liberal as a group. As a result, Congress has become more sharply polarized along conservative-liberal lines. (Barber and McCarty, 2013)

Finally, the requirement that states create majority-minority districts* has also had an impact on the political system. While the creation of majority-minority districts resulted in the election of more African Americans and others to Congress, it also concentrated the minority voters in only a few districts and left surrounding districts with a higher proportion of white voters. As a result, majority-minority districts in the South send more minorities (who tend to be liberal Democrats) to Congress, but the majority-white districts tend to send more conservative Republicans. This factor, too, has contributed to the polarization of Congress. (Hill, 2013)

Scholars disagree about the extent to which the Voting Rights Act has contributed to the polarization of Congress. The following excerpts showcase an academic debate over this issue between two leading political scientists:

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· Pildes: Blame the Voting Rights Act

· Kennedy: Don’t Blame the VRA

Pildes: Blame the Voting Rights Act

The following excerpt, from a scholarly article on the impact of the Voting Rights Act, or VRA, focuses on the effect that the VRA had in ending the long-time Democratic Party dominance of Southern politics. It is excerpted from  “Why the Center Does Not Hold: The Causes of Hyperpolarized Democracy in America,”  by prominent political scientist Richard Pildes. Click on the title of the article to read, download, and print a copy of the text. These readings are provided by the Shapiro Library. This reading is required. You will have to log into Shapiro Library with your SNHU credentials.

The 1965 VRA, and related changes in the era in constitutional doctrine and law, began the process of unraveling this system. The VRA began what might be considered the “purification” or “maturation” of the American political system. Put another way, the VRA initiated the rise of a genuine political system in the South, which meant the destruction of the one-party monopoly and the emergence, eventually, of a more normal system of competitive two-party politics. Just as the peculiar structure of the one-party South had projected itself onto the shape of national political parties, so too this dramatic transformation of Southern politics in turn reshaped the essential structure of the national political parties. As the VRA and related measures broke down the barriers to electoral participation in the South—literacy tests, poll taxes, manipulative registration practices, and durational residency requirement—a massive infusion of new voters, mostly black but white as well, entered and reconfigured Southern politics.

These voters were, on average, much more liberal than the median voting white Southerner had been before 1965. No longer could conservative, one-party political monopoly be maintained. Over the next generation, these new voters ripped asunder the old Democratic Party of the South, eventually fragmenting it into two parties: a highly conservative Republican Party, into which many of these formerly Democratic Southern voters fled, and a new, moderate-to-liberal Democratic Party that was more in line ideologically with the rest of the Democratic Party nationwide. There was, of course, a self-reinforcing feedback dynamic to this whole process as well; as the Democratic Party became more liberal in the South, more conservatives fled; as more conservatives fled, the Democratic Party became even more liberal. At the national level, the progressive strands on racial issues that had existed in the Republican Party diminished, to be replaced by a more conservative stance on racial issues, while the Democratic Party at the national level became the party of racial liberalism.

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Week 5 Short Responses

You’ve just read two historical analyses of the effects of the Voting Rights Act by two highly respected scholars. Both looked at the issue through the lens of political history, yet they came to very different conclusions.

As you’ll see in Theme: Analyzing History, Learning Block 5-4, when you’re considering the validity of someone’s historical analysis, it’s important to think about the types of evidence that he or she used. The next two questions will ask you about the types of evidence that each of the scholars in this “debate” relied on. Be sure to respond to each question in 2-3 complete sentences, using proper grammar.

Week 5 Short Responses – Question 9

One of these scholars relied heavily on evidence about the substance of today’s political debate. Which scholar was that? What sort of evidence did he use?

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Week 5 Short Responses – Question 10

One of these scholars relied heavily on evidence about the political process. Which scholar was that? What sort of evidence did he use?

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Junn, J. (2000). “The Significance of Race and Class for Political Participation.” Prepared for presentation at the conference, “Political Participation: Building a Research Agenda,”” held by the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University. Retrieved from  https://www.princeton.edu/csdp/events/Participation2000/junn.pdf , May 27, 2016.

Introduction of the Paper

From your writing plan, you have a solid topic, research question, thesis statements, and sources outlined. Before you begin drafting your actual historical analysis essay, let’s review the different components of an essay, starting with the first paragraph.

Introductory Paragraph

An essay should begin with an introduction paragraph. The introduction presents the audience with a general overview and background of your topic, a short summary of the evidence that will be presented to support your argument, and your thesis statement*, which outlines the argument of your essay.

One important function of an introduction paragraph is to engage the audience and draw the reader in. So, you should introduce the topic you will be writing on in the most interesting and appealing way possible. The introduction also allows you to set the tone of the paper and catch the reader’s attention. A brief outline of what information, claims, and evidence you will touch on in your essay will let your audience know what they can expect.

After introducing the general topic of your essay, you should go on to provide an overview of how the rest of the paper will proceed. This brief overview of the structure of the essay should show the audience how the subsequent sections of the essay are supposed to relate to one another.

It is important that introduction paragraph be as clear as possible, so it is usually a good idea to reread and revise an introduction paragraph once the rest of a paper has been written. Sometimes during the writing of a paper, an author might change how he or she chooses to present or defend his or her position. When this happens, the introduction paragraph must be revised to reflect those changes.

In the introduction, you should also introduce your thesis statement, which can be the last sentence or two of the paragraph. This one or two sentence version of your argument should not come out of nowhere. Your introduction should lay the groundwork for your thesis.

Essay Progress Check 1

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As you learned in Theme: Communicating Historical Ideas, the thesis statement is the backbone of your essay, and it outlines your argument for readers. In your thesis statement, you should briefly state your argument about a topic and describe how you plan to prove that argument. A thesis statement should be succinct and specific. It will appear as the last sentence of your introductory paragraph.

By now, you should have received feedback from your instructor about your preliminary ideas for your thesis statement that you submitted in Theme: Communicating Historical Ideas, Learning Block 3-4 and as part of your writing plan in Theme: Communicating Historical Ideas, Learning Block 4-4. Go back and review your thesis statement now.

Consider the feedback from your instructor and any research you have done since submitting your writing plan. How can you revise your thesis to reflect this new information? As a starting point, ask yourself these questions:

· Is my thesis statement too broad? Or is it too specific?

· Is it clear what the topic of my essay is from my thesis statement?

· Does my thesis outline my argument?

· Does my thesis describe how I will prove my argument?

Now try revising your thesis. Your changes can be as little as rearranging a few words to clarify your argument or as involved as restructuring your argument entirely. If you decide not to revise your thesis right now, explain why and include your original thesis statement. Remember, as you begin to write your essay, your thesis might change again.

Write your thesis revisions in a new, separate document; name it firstname_lastname.Essay and save it on your computer. Be sure to place your name at the top of the document. You will add to this document during the course of Themes 3 and 4, and you will be asked to submit it to your instructor for feedback and approval at the end of each week.

Writing an Introduction

Readings Icon

The passage below is excerpted from  “‘The Fight Was Instilled in Us’: High School Activism and the Civil Rights Movement in Charleston” . Click on the title of the article to read, download, and print a copy of the text. These readings are provided by the Shapiro Library. You will have to log into Shapiro Library with your SNHU credentials to access this article.

Remember, this passage is a sample of an introduction written by a professional historian writing for a specific audience. The audience had an impact on the way this passage was written.

“The Fight Was Instilled in Us”: High School Activism and the Civil Rights Movement in Charleston

The S.H. Kress & Co. building in Charleston, SC. (Click button for citation) 

“I remember people standing and staring at us like we were trouble makers and were trying to upset Charleston,” Harvey Gantt, a graduate of Burke High School in Charleston, recalled of the student led sit-in on April 1, 1960. “We at least got the attention of the community. We were feeling young and gifted and ready to tear down a broken social system. We felt like we were pioneers that day,” Gantt said. Gantt was one of twenty-four Burke High School students who marched to S.H. Kress & Co., a segregated five-and-dime store on King Street in downtown Charleston. The students occupied nearly one-half of the lunch-counter seats, humming, singing freedom songs, and reciting prayers. The students maintained their composure as the manager of the store asked them to leave, white patrons cleared the premises, and bystanders circulated rumors of a bomb threat. Police arrested the students, charged them with trespassing, and put them in jail. By examining the effort to desegregate public facilities through the lens of the first sit-in in Charleston, this article will illustrate how a small, committed group of local high school students and teachers played an integral, though overlooked, role in the civil rights movement.

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Week 5 Short Response

Read the introduction above and answer the following questions. Be sure to respond to each question in 2-3 complete sentences, using proper grammar. When the response requires a direct quote from the introduction, you can copy and paste it into your answer.

Week 5 Short Responses – Question 11

1. What is the topic of this essay? Does the author make it clear in the introduction?

2. What is the author’s thesis?

3. What kind of sources and evidence do you think the author will use to support his thesis?

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Essay Progress Check 1

By now you should have enough evidence compiled from your research in order to begin writing your historical analysis essay. You will begin working on the essay piece by piece.

Draft an introduction for your historical event analysis. Keep in mind the necessary parts of an introduction: an explanation of the topic and argument, an overview of evidence, and your thesis statement. If you have revised your thesis statement, make sure to include the most recent version.

Add your introduction to firstname_lastname.Essay, under the heading Introduction. Save this document locally on your computer; you will be asked to submit it at the end of this learning block.




Hale, J. (2013). “The fight was instilled in us”: High school activism and the Civil Rights Movement in Charleston. South Carolina Historical Magazine, 114 (1). Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/docview/1442509559?

Body and Conclusion of the Paper

The introduction to your paper is exactly that, an introduction. Your argument, evidence, and the meat of your essay all come into play in the body of the paper, and the conclusion wraps up what you have argued.

Click on the tabs below to learn more about each part of the body of your essay. And remember that the  SNHU Writing Center  is also available if you need additional help with this, or any other, part of your essay.




Topic Sentences




The body should make up the bulk of your paper. This is where you argue your thesis and elaborate on the outline you presented in your introduction. Your introduction and thesis statement should give you an idea of how the paper will be organized, such as which pieces of your claim you will argue first.

Body Paragraphs

The thesis statement presented in the introduction paragraph is the main idea of the entire paper, and each subsequent paragraph should work towards supporting that thesis statement. The majority of an essay is made up of supporting paragraphs that serve this purpose.

Each supporting paragraph should begin with a topic sentence*, contain supporting sentences that back up the main idea presented in the topic sentence, and end with a summary sentence that reiterates that main idea.

Each of the topic sentences in your supporting paragraphs should relate back to your thesis statement. You should also dedicate at least one supporting paragraph to addressing counterarguments. Identify reasons someone might object to your argument, and respond to that objection using evidence you gathered during your research.

When constructing your supporting paragraphs, keep in mind the P.I.E. method. The following graphic reviews the P.I.E. method*.

PIE Method

· Point: Clearly state the point you will be making. This point should be clearly related to your overall argument and thesis.

· Information: Provide information or evidence that supports that point. This is also where you will cite your sources, using quotations, paraphrases, or summaries.

· Explanation: Clarify why the information supports your thesis. You should not assume your audience will understand and make the connection on its own.


Conclusion Paragraph

Your conclusion is the final paragraph, and this is where you pull your argument together. You should reflect on your thesis statement, and the topic sentence of your conclusion should be a specific rewording of your thesis. In your conclusion, you can also state what the argument means within the context of the study of history. This is an opportunity to remind your readers of the most important points you made in your paper, reiterate your thesis statement, and briefly mention the arguments you used to support it.

You shouldn’t introduce new arguments or positions in the conclusion paragraph, because you won’t have time or space to support any new material. The only time you should make an exception to this is if your instructor specifically asks you to do something different.

Even though the primary purpose of a conclusion paragraph is to review material you’ve already presented earlier in the essay, it is important not to simply repeat yourself. You should try to restate your thesis in a new, fresh, and interesting way. Otherwise, you might lose your audience’s interest in the last few sentences of your essay.


Review Checkpoint

To test your understanding of the content presented in this learning block, please click on the Question icon below. Click your selected response to see feedback displayed below it. If you have trouble answering, you are always free to return to this or any learning block to re-read the material.

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Tips for Writing a History Paper

Historical writing has certain conventions that you should pay attention to as you begin to draft your historical analysis essay. Although historians might disagree about how they evaluate the past, in general, you can expect that they will follow certain “writing rules.” Of course, in this class and in every course, you should confirm what writing style and format your instructor prefers for your assignment.

When writing a history paper, it is important to write in the past tense when speaking about historical events, since they happened in the past. Your entire paper will not be in past tense, however. Avoid generalizations and be specific as possible. Phrases like “some people believe…” have no place in historical writing. Always maintain a formal, academic voice, and never use first person (“I, me, we, us,” etc.) or second person (“you”).

When studying the past, it is easy to project our own present day values onto events that happened before us. Try not to relate all historical events back to the present, and do not jumble the order of chronological events with anachronisms*. Provide context for events, information, and evidence that you present in your writing. Most importantly, proofread your work!

Writing Tips

· Write in the past tense

· Avoid generalizations

· Provide context

· Use a formal, academic voice

· Respect the past

· Avoid anachronisms

· Proofread!



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