Following the requirements listed below, answer that question—How Was America Ma


Following the requirements listed below, answer that question—How Was America Made between the 1860s-1920s?–in an approximately 800-1,100 word essay that sets out your clear answer to the question, establishes a specific interpretation/argument in the introduction, provides clear time references, and carries the reader forward through your essay by explaining your reasoning with specific evidence drawn from the course modules and course material (including links in the modules, topic guides, syllabus, and this assignment descriiption).
Context for the assignment: Carefully read and review the lecture outline “What Is America? What was America?” located in Module 1 and again in Module 14. It sets out some ideas about examining that question and how the U.S. Census has defined citizenship and categorized “Americans” over time. That lecture cites a range of statements about “America” from songs, poetry, speeches, and other writings. Think about how those writers and speakers set out visions of what “America” meant to them. Think about how “America” is both a geographical place and an intellectual concept that fits loosely under the term nation. That concept and that nation are held together by a set of laws, intertwined governing institutions, and a never-ending argument about it all. Those arguments evolve over time and define how individuals fit into the nation in different periods. As a concept, “America” arouses powerful emotions and structures basic aspects about identity—how “Americans” think about themselves and what people think about “Americans.” As Gunnar Myrdal states in the epigraph quote, “America is continuously struggling for its soul.”
Today, that struggle certainly continues, and we may be at another major historical turning point in it. For this course, I want you write two essays that use the course materials to set out your vision about how modern America got made.
It is a huge question that can fill rooms full of books. I think it is important for students to start there answers now, though, to sift through the material from this course to figure out what you would find important enough to put into the short space your essay. Establishing answers to this essay question is a key step in trying to find answers to the even bigger ones of “What was America? What was an American?” and “What is America? What is an American?” as well as the other three major questions for the course. The first essay assignment is described above this paragraph and below it. The final essay assignment is in a separate entry.
Required Essay Elements:
Below is a template that students are strongly encouraged to follow in their exam essays. It is not required. If you find it too constraining for your specific vision, you may develop an alternative, but you should check with the instructors. You may be creative in your approach as long as you recognize the requirements of the essay and the contents of the grading rubric. We love to read interesting essays with smoothly flowing prose and provocative, sophisticated ideas that help us learn things.
Introduction: Somewhere in the opening paragraph, give your clear answer to the question “How was modern America made between the 1860s-1920s?” Capture attention of reader with specific story, image, reference, idea, preferably in a pithy, concise way. Set up who or what is the focus of your answer. Explain your focus so that an unfamiliar reader can know what they are looking at and where you are taking them. In your introduction, plant seeds so that they will grow in the readers mind as you carry them along in your writing. Establish the themes of the essay, connecting them to the sources you are using so that the reader can have that as a base from the start. Show the reader how that theme or those themes help answer the essay question. Be sure to define one’s key terms, including modern and America or American. Those definitions will help the reader know your specific usage of the terms.
Students NEED to have a concise, yet sophisticated short answer that is either at the beginning of the opening paragraph or the end of it (or in a place clearly recognizable)—this is what is often called a “thesis statement.” This statement should be the organizing idea that guides the reader through the evidence.
Body paragraphs: Generally, produce 3-5 paragraphs depending on their length. A simple option is to have three paragraphs, with each paragraph focused on the required items listed below. Offer rich detail from the course modules—think in terms of power and what kind of changes occurred that left long-term legacies, whether in law, politics, economics, culture, emotions, or mass consumerism. Think about what kind of power an individual had to control their own lives and how they fit into the changes you are writing about. Have each of those paragraphs connect to the ideas or themes established in the introduction. Ideally, find an “arc” that becomes a kind of “road map” for the reader. Set that out in the intro and then have these paragraphs be memorable parts of that arc.
These body paragraphs must cover the items below. Each section needs a topic sentence that serves to transition the reader to the new section and sets up the major idea/theme/topic of the paragraph.
Reconstruction and Early Jim Crow
Every essay must include some discussion of the 14th Amendment and the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. [In addition to the resources in the modules, students might benefit from the Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute’s page on the 14th Amendment ]
Other parts of a students’ approach to this section can be anything drawn from Module 2—Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction, 1861-1877+ or Module 3—Reconstruction in Retreat, White Supremacy as Dominant, and the Rise of the Jim Crow System.
Industrial/Corporate Capitalism, Immigration, and Urbanization.
Every essay must include some discussion of the Statue of Liberty and the Immigration Act of 1924.
Other parts of a students’ approach to this section can be anything drawn from Module 4—Making Modern America, 1865-1920: Corporations, Inventions, Mass Wealth, and Immigration [also Heat+Motion+Communication+Pleasure+Fear].
The West and Westward Expansion.
Every essay must include some discussion of the “Cowboy” as an American ideal and the role of popular culture in shaping powerful answers to the question of “What is an American?”
Other parts of a students’ approach to this section can be anything drawn from Module 5—Making Modern America: The West and the American Imagination, the Power of Myth and Romance.
Conclusion: A quick paragraph that brings the reader’s journey to an end. It should not just repeat and summarize the essay’s main points, but offer some parting ideas/conclusions that affirm to the reader that it was worth their sticking with your essay until the end. Don’t save your best arguments for the conclusion, though. Put your best ideas in the introduction.
Some general reminders:
Be sure to answer the question. Use clear, concrete examples and evidence to support your answer.
Be sure to have a clear use of time/chronology and to define your key terms. Establish what you think are the priorities for what mattered about the past and explain why those things you chose matter more than other plausible choices. Remember that in making an argument about why something matters, one has to set up the context that surrounds that thing and a rationale for judging that thing more important than other things. For example, for a reader to know why apples are better than oranges, the writer has to tell them about apples AND oranges, or they can’t make assess how well the writer makes their case for apples.
Make sure you review the Essay Evaluation/Rubric. The criteria in that rubric will be used to assess the essay.
Make sure your essay covers the fundamentals of “What happened, how it happened, why it happened, and why is it significant?”
Assignment Format/Length/Research/Citations
This essay is a Major Assignment and a substantial portion of your final grade. It should be approximately 800-1,100 words in length (~3-4 pages). The word-count/page-count does not include footnotes or endnotes. It should be paginated, double-spaced, with no larger than 12 pt. font. Papers will not be penalized for exceeding the length requirement. Font, Font size, and other factors create wide variations in final page length. As a general rule of thumb, using Times New Roman, 12 pt, with one-inch margins top, bottom, and sides, will translate to approximately 300 words per page (excluding footnotes). Footnotes and endnotes will not count for the word count.
Some students may be able to do a brilliant paper at 700 words, but the expectation is that quality papers will be in the 800-word range.
All papers must be submitted to SafeAssign through the essay submission portal in Course Content.
All papers where it will be checked for plagiarism and similarities to items online, to other papers, and to items in Safeassign’s enormous database.
And, as always, I am more concerned about the quality of the work than the quantity.
The only evidence that will count for this essay will be material covered in some form in the class, in a lecture video bit, in a lecture outline, and/or material found in Blackboard modules or this assignment descriiption.
CITATIONS: Make sure that you have read and are familiar with plagiarism. There is a descriiption on the syllabus. Make sure that you are citing your sources, putting direct quotations from sources in quotation marks, and giving proper credit to the sources you are using. We are not evaluating your paper on the format of your citation as long as we can determine what source you are using. Please put a link if that is an option for your source.
Students should use footnotes or endnotes to cite specific sources that are not Prof. Germany’s lectures, as it is the simplest way to explain research to a reader. These references help us see your used of evidence/research. They don’t have to be complicated. A basic title and a link can work for this assignment.
Footnoting Germany’s comments in lectures or videos is not necessary unless using a direct quote. If one quotes directly, students can use a footnote or put a reference in the text such as, “as the strikingly ill-informed lecture on ___ said . . .”; or put in a simple footnote with a short title of the lecture.
Put footnotes or endnotes as close as possible to the place in the paper where the information was used (not in the middle of the sentence, but at the end, after the period). If you do not know how to insert footnotes into MS Word, see these instructions from Microsoft:; if you use a different program, use Google or other internet search for the name of your word processing program and “footnotes” or “insert footnotes.”

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