Race Relations in America during Colonialism Narrative Essar

Primary Document Assignment: Race Relations in America Description

This writing assignment centers on the topic of race relations from the settling of the Americas in 1492 up to the Civil War. Its goal is to challenge you to examine the historical documents from the period that relate to that topic (e.g. the primary sources) and to place those documents in the context of the secondary sources and lecture material from the course. In short, your task is to demonstrate the ability to think like a historian by critically analyzing the types of evidence that historians utilize to make sense of the past and to answer the questions that interest us.

To begin this assignment, select at least three primary sources from the course that offer three different perspectives on the nature and experience of equality and/or inequality in the United States. You might choose, for instance, the primary documents that deal with any of the following:

  • European or Native perspectives on colonization
  • Anglo American, Asian, Mexican, or Native perspectives on the West
  • Anglo or African American perspectives on slavery

You need not pick a single category, such as slavery, but may choose to look at race relations from three different episodes and perspectives in different time periods that intrigue you. Your paper should focus on the primary source documents but also draw on the unit lectures and textbook readings to contextualize those documents.


The learning objectives of this assignment include:

  • the ability to analyze a piece of historical evidence critically;
  • the ability to use secondary source materials, including the textbook, to situate such historical evidence within its larger historical context; and
  • the ability to articulate your insights in a grammatically correct, formal exposition.

Thesis Statement :

Your paper needs to contain a clear thesis statement. That thesis statement should make some claim about the character of the various American perspectives on inequality and equality in the United States that you have chosen to examine in your paper. A thesis statement is another word for an argument you are trying to make to me about the sources you have chosen. A successful paper is not simply listing facts or describing a random selection of sources. As a general rule, it is a good idea to focus on documents that have something in common in order to help you create your argument.

General Words of Advice:

  • read the documents several times carefully;
  • identify the documents’ authors in terms of time period, region, and historical context;
  • consider the authors’ purposes, anticipated audience, and their explicit or tacit values and positions on such questions as race, class, religion, nation, and gender;
  • consider what can (and can’t) be learned from this document; and
  • study the language of the document, including the nature of its genre (i.e. a personal letter, a political speech, an autobiography, etc.).

Essay Format:

Papers are to be 6-8 double-spaced pages and must be presented formally according to collegiate conventions. For example, the upper left-hand corner of the first page should include:

  • Your Full Name
  • Title of CourseName of Instructor
  • Date


  • Provide a title to your essay that captures its content. There is no need for an individual title page.
  • Include page numbers in the right upper corner, excepting the first page.
  • Double-space your essay, with the exception of long quotations, which should be indented and single spaced.
  • Provide citations for the documents and sources you use. Cite these documents with footnotes or endnotes. Do not also include a bibliography for this short paper.
  • Check both spelling and grammar.


Use the Chicago Manual of Style for citations, except for document reading sets which should simply read in the footnote: HIS220B, Week 1 Document Set, page number. For any other citations, please see examples of how to cite a book, article, website, or other at: http://www.libs.uga.edu/ref/chicago.html. For this paper, you only need to cite the primary document as indicated above if it is selected from our course readings. Writing Resource Center: You have resources at NU to complete this type of paper. First, feel free to contact me, your instructor, with any questions you have in advance. Second, please utilize the NU Writing Center, especially if you need help formulating a thesis, writing topic sentences, or addressing grammatical and organizational issues. The Writing Center is available for free to all students and can be accessed at: https://www.nu.edu/studentservices/writingcenter/.