Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy


Primary Source Assignment: Due Mon, Oct. 25th

This assignment asks you to analyze two primary sources that are thematically related to one of our course themes: capitalism, slavery, or democracy. The goal is to choose two sources from two different time periods, analyze them, connect them to the theme you’ve chosen, and pose a historical question that will serve as a jumping-off point for your next assignment. (the “Research Paper Assignment,” due Nov. 24th)

To better guide your analysis of the sources, I’m asking you to first annotate them using, a free online application. First, create a free account for yourself at, using your Baruchmail email address. (Note: you may have to install an extension to your browser to get the feature to work; if you cannot use in any of the browsers you have access to, please contact me) You should automatically be registered to our class group, “HIS 1000.”

Since The American Yawp textbook has the feature built-in, the easiest way to being is to go to the American Yawp Reader, where the vast majority of the primary sources I’ve chosen for you are hosted, find the source you want to use, open the sidebar at the top right, log in, and begin annotating using the highlight, annotate, and “new page note” buttons. Be sure to save your annotations to the “HIS 1000” group so that I can review them.

You can make a general note about the source using the page icon:

Highlight passages you find significant by selecting them and clicking the pencil icon:

After selecting, click the “Annotate” button to make a note to yourself that will help you analyze the source. The note could be a short explanation in your own words, a link to another website or source of information, or a question that the source raises for you. Be sure to make your annotations clear and specific, so that you will be able to use them later when analyzing your source.

When finished with your annotation, click “Post to HIS 1000” to make them viewable to the group. You should make at least 3 annotations for each source, although you can feel free to make as many as you like.

After saving your annotations, follow the assignment instructions for analyzing the document, connecting it to the theme you have chosen, and posing a historical question. Be sure to use the questions I have provided to analyze each document as fully as possible, and feel free to refer to class lectures, notes, or the American Yawp textbook for context. The written portion of your assignment should be about 3 pages (double spaced) in length: one page for each of the two documents, and a third page with 1-2 paragraphs connecting each document to the course theme, followed by a question you will raise at the end about the historical topic and/or theme you want to address in the Research Paper assignment.

Full instructions along with a list of primary sources organized by theme and date are available on the course Blackboard site, under “Assignments.” As always, feel free to email me at with any questions.


Blog Post Assignment #2: Due Weds, Oct. 20th

Please follow the same instructions as for Blog Post Assignment #1, but with regard to the three secondary source readings we’ve done since then: Nikole Hannah-Jones/Gordon Wood, Thavolia Glymph, or Seth Rockman. You can post anywhere on the Blog site (using “+New”), but be sure to give your post a title clearly indicating which reading you are responding to.

When composing your new post, you may want to refer to my comments and feedback on your previous one and see if there are improvements you can make before posting. Feel free to email me with any questions.


First Blog Post Assignment – Due Wednesday, Sept. 22nd

For this assignment, you will be writing and posting a short post on the course blog in response to the readings you’ve done. Your post should respond to one of the readings on Blackboard that we’ve read over the last several weeks—either James Fulcher, Edmund Morgan, or Ira Berlin. Please choose only one reading to focus on.

Your post should be between 300–500 words (about 1 ½ – 2 pages double-spaced; use the Word Count feature at the bottom of the blog editor, or in MS Word, to check). You do not need to use any other sources or materials to complete this assignment; in fact, with the exception of the American Yawp textbook, I would discourage you from doing so. When quoting or referring to the reading directly, you can use in-text parenthetical citation—a page number in parentheses after the quote or passage you’re referring to. Ex: (Foner 237).

If you cite the American Yawp textbook, you can either use the editors’ names and the title of the section of the online book you are citing (ex: Locke and Wright, eds., “Slavery and the Making of Race”), or insert a hyperlink (use the “link” icon in the toolbar and copy and paste the url of the webpage you are citing).

You may want to start with a brief (one paragraph) summary of what you have read, but don’t try to summarize the entire reading. Instead, try one or more of the following approaches:

  • What was the historic transformation, or change over time, that the author is describing in the reading? According to the historian, why and how did this change take place? Did these changes take place gradually or rapidly, and how did they affect some of the people involved?
  • In your own words, explain the author’s main argument about the events or developments s/he describes. Was there a single overarching argument throughout, or did the author make several interwoven arguments? (If the latter, pick the one you found most significant, and explain).
  • How does this reading add to your knowledge of the subject, or challenge or contradict what you previously thought about this aspect of American or global history?
  • What was a question that the reading raised for you? Did the author address this question to your satisfaction? if so, how? If not, what were you still curious about or unclear on after reading?
  • What was a historical figure, event, or detail that particularly stuck out to you or interested you? How did the author use this figure, event, or detail to support his/her overall argument or interpretation?
  • What kind of evidence did the author use in making this interpretation? Note: If you take this approach you may want to look at the author’s notes, which appear either as footnotes at the bottom of the page or as endnotes at the end of the book or chapter. Did you find the author’s use of evidence persuasive? Why/why not?

Whatever approach you choose, feel free to posit a hypothesis, or an educated guess, rather than a definitive answer. These posts are meant to be exploratory and show evidence that you’ve done the reading and thought deeply about what you have read, rather than a definitive answer or conclusion.

Instead of a letter grade, your blog post assignment will be graded with a check, check plus, or check minus, based on completion and evidence that you’ve read and understood the reading. However, the blog posts are important because they will cumulatively comprise 20% of your grade, and will be hosted on a blog that you and the rest of the class will be using throughout the semester.

You can compose and edit your post directly into the visual editor on the blog site (see below); or compose it in a Word document or other word processer, then copy and paste (CTRL C + V) into the editor. Please use a spell check, and make sure your post has been edited and proofread so that it reads smoothly. You may also want to review the “General Guidelines for and Tips for Writing” in the course Blackboard site.

See the “Support” page in the top menu bar for basic information on how to post and use the blog. For help, email me at, or visit, or ask the Center for Computing and Technology helpdesk.