The New South, Race, and Lynching

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Essay Prompt: Why did lynchings against African-Americans become frequent during the New South era? How did whites justify this form of vigilante violence? What arguments did African-American activists like Ida B. Wells make to fight back?

Instructions: Your essay should be no fewer than two full pages and no longer than three full pages. Please use double-spacing and 12 point font and upload your essay as a Word document. The only sources you need to write this essay are available on our online textbook, American Yawp.

First, read “The New South and the Problem of Race” section of Chapter 18, “Life in Industrial America.” This provides you with the historical overview of the era and explains why lynching became a problem during the late 19th and early 20th century. It also explains the justifications of whites and the resistance of black activists like Ida B. Wells.

Second, go to the Primary Source reader for Chapter 18, “Life in Industrial America” and read “Lynch Law in America” by Ida B. Wells. This is a primary source because it was written at the time under historical investigation. Primary sources are often eyewitness accounts or documents produced by people who were alive at the time an event or events occurred. A secondary source is a book based on primary sources written by a scholar during a later time period. For example, our textbook, American Yawp, is a secondary source since it was written by historians in the 21st century about past events. If you have not already, I encourage you to read the “Introduction” to American Yawp’s “Primary Source Reader” to help you understand what primary sources are and how historians use them to interpret the past.

Your essay, then, is based on a combination of primary and secondary sources. To write your essay, you need to know the information from a secondary source — “The New South and the Problem of Race” section from American Yawp. And, you also MUST use evidence from the primary source — Well’s “Lynch Law in America” — to support your points in your essay. You do not need to use any other outside sources. Your essay should contain a bibliography or works cited page. Even though I know your sources and where they came from, this is a good process to follow. For this assignment, just use the MLA format for a Works Cited page. The rubric asks you to use Chicago Style but just follow MLA for now.

Structuring Your Essay: Here’s a brief guide to show you how to structure your essay:

I. Introduction

A. Briefly explain your topic and establish your thesis statement, which is also known as your essay’s main argument. Your thesis statement is your brief answer to the questions I posed in the essay prompt above.

II. First Main Paragraph

A. Make your first main argument and support it with evidence from the readings.

III. Second Main Paragraph

A. Make your second main argument and support it with evidence from the readings.

IV. Third Main Paragraph

A. Make your third main argument and support it with evidence from the readings.

V. Conclusion

A. Tie together the points you made in your main paragraphs and reiterate your thesis from the introduction.

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