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African Americans still have to struggle for freedom

African Americans still have to struggle for freedom
After the abolitions of slavery, why did African Americans still have to struggle for freedom?
In this essay, you will answer the first Freedom Question: After the abolitions of slavery, why did African Americans still have to struggle for freedom?
If you’ve begun the reading, you know the topic that begins our course is Reconstruction. It’s a good place to begin, since its results laid the groundwork for how Americans experienced and thought about race in the twentieth century. As you complete the readings, you will notice that opportunities for African Americans actually seemed vibrant during Reconstruction. Proof of this notion can be found in the numerous black Americans who served in political office during the era—an unthinkable state of affairs before the Civil War! And yet by the close of the nineteenth century, few African Americans could vote in this country. What happened? Why the turn from opportunity to marginalization?
Before you answer the Freedom Question, take a close look at the document Practice Essay: Notes to Essay Study Guide, which is the next document in this PDF. These study guides are always optional and I never need to see them. For this first week, though, I strongly recommend seeing if they work for you.
One big highlight: as you work through this material, pay special attention to the Voices of Freedom documents. I would like to see each used in your essay.
Essay Structure: For each of your essays this semester, I strongly recommend the classic five-paragraph essay. You might remember it from an English course. It looks like this:
Introduction with Main Idea?1st Supporting Claim with Evidence?2nd Supporting Claim with Evidence?3rd Supporting Claim with Evidence?Conclusion that States Significance of Main Idea
There are serious critiques of this model, mainly that it is too formulaic. I agree: it is not great for all uses. But for us, in this class, it works reasonably well. Why? Because it forces students to put their ideas into the form of an argument. That is incredibly important to me. If I wanted students to regurgitate information, I would make multiple choice exams only. But I do not want that. Instead, I want my students to practice making points about the past, so they feel comfortable doing that when the semester is over. For us, then, we’re in the argument business.
The five-paragraph model is simply an easy template to use so that student and professor have similar expectations that essays for the course express a main idea, support them with further claims, and do so using solid evidence. We are not tied to the five-paragraph quality of the essay, either. What we’re tied to is the argumentative character of the five-paragraph essay. In other words, not every essay you write needs to be exactly five paragraphs. You might find a different number better allows you to develop your main idea. No big deal there.
Whatever the paragraph length of your essay, it will need to have three critical components to be considered an argument: main idea, supporting claims, evidence. Below, I have excellent, effective, and workable examples of
these components. Spend some time examining them to become familiar with what makes a good main idea, supporting claim, and discussion of evidence in this course.
An Excellent Main Idea :“After the conclusion of the civil war, the Northerners, who had played such a vital role in abolishing slavery, left Reconstruction in the hands of Southern Democrats, who had no plan to have equality in the South and did everything in their power to restrict the freedoms of African Americans.” I really like how this example explains a great deal, yet remains direct. Clearly, the author has revised this sentence until it attained those qualities.
An Effective Main Idea: “Southern Democrats committed themselves to a return to racial hierarchy.” This example explains less than the excellent example. Note how it omits the role Northerners played. It is still clear, direct, and reasonable, though, and is thus effective.
A Workable Main Idea: “African Americans still had to struggle for freedom due to poll taxes, the KKK, and Southern Democrats.” This main idea simply lists sub-arguments, which means the reader never knows what the author’s main idea might be. This type of listing argument is common in high school courses, but should be avoided here.
An Excellent Supporting Claim: “Local and federal laws limited African American freedom, especially in the Southern states.” This supporting claim is from the same Practice Essay as the excellent main idea example. Notice how the author has used a theme—law—to break down the larger main idea.
An Effective Supporting Claim: “Poll taxes limited African American freedom.” While direct, the author has really only offered an example, not an introduction to a theme that will receive development in a discussion of evidence.
A Workable Supporting Claim: “A third example is poll taxes.”This supporting claims does not even make a claim.
An Excellent Discussion of Evidence: “One of the most effective decisions made by the federal government in aiding segregation in the South would be the case of Plessy v. Ferguson. The courts’ decision declared trains and facilities could be ‘separate but equal.’ Even though the only opposing view of Judge Harlan said that with that decision would come much more diversity and distance between the two races in the South. The federal government opened the door to severe segregation in the South. Another main problem was the elimination of black’s political freedoms. In the south it was almost an impossible task to vote as an African American. Some communities set up poll taxes that sometimes even a poor white man couldn’t afford, or an impossible literacy test that was graded usually by a racist Democrat. The grandfather clause only allowed people to vote if their grandfathers did, which excluded all descendants of slaves. Not able to vote, African Americans found it even more difficult to hold office. At the beginning of Reconstruction there were black senators from the South, but by the end, there were almost no black officials at all. African Americans had no representation in government.”
The discussion is thorough and, while it could discuss a great number of other points, it is a reasonable scale for our purposes. It incorporates a Voices of Freedom document, makes specific references to exact types of laws, and discusses freedom in a clear fashion. Three good discussions of evidence such as this one can support an argument quite well.
Effective and Workable Evidence: Evidence discussions in these categories simply offer less and less than the excellent example above, and perhaps even include misinformation. They might also include unclear statements.
To learn more about how to make an argument in an essay, see the handout “Argument” from the University of North Carolina Writing Center. It’s available on D2L.
Format Details: You essay should be about 500-700 words. Save the file as a PDF (if you need help with that, call the Help Desk at 346-4357). Submit to D2L Dropbox. Please include your name on the document itself (so when I download it, I still know who wrote it!).
Feedback: I will offer feedback via the Dropbox.
Grading Rubric for Essays:
A: This work is excellent in nearly all aspects, keeping the interest of the reader by presenting original ideas clearly. Its style and organization seem natural and easy. It supports claims with solid evidence, using impeccable logic to do so. In thorough and specific examples, the author demonstrates a deep knowledge of the material.
B: Work in this category is competent and good, but with lapses here and there. Its thesis is clear, properly limited, and reasonable, and the writing is generally effective without rising to sustained distinction. The author uses specific examples, but not to a great extent.
C: This type of work is competent but not yet good. It is adequately organized, but the thesis tends to be vague or imprudent, though not necessarily implausible. Poor presentation, unclear organization, or significant grammars errors may mar otherwise sound ideas. In some papers, the organization, style, and grammar are fine, but the ideas need development.
D: This work demonstrates some effort on the author’s part, but technical problems or flaws in thinking keep it from being competent. The author shows minimal familiarity with course meetings and assigned readings.
F: This is a failing grade, usually reserved for work that demonstrates minimal effort on the author’s part.

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