Write an 8-10 page (double-spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins) that uses at least two primary sources to analyze an event or issue from American history since World War II.
Historians rely on primary sources to construct a picture of the past. During the 20th century, the number of primary sources became vast. While historians of the more distant past struggle to piece together the historical record, historians of recent America encounter more sources than they could possibly examine.
Primary sources are sources created at the time of a particular event. (They are thus different from secondary sources, which include books and articles written about an event after the fact. Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail is a primary source about the Civil Rights movement; Taylor Branch’s book, Parting the Waters, is a secondary source.)
Primary sources include newspaper accounts, magazine articles, news footage, advertisements, movies, television broadcasts, government reports and documents, letters, diaries, literature, paintings, songs, and artifacts. If you are unsure about the difference between primary and secondary sources, you should discuss your sources with me.
Locate at least two sources pertaining to your topic. These sources could be from a newspapers, magazines, letters, diaries, speeches, films, TV broadcasts, court cases, etc. Analyze your sources carefully, and consider the following issues: what can these sources tell us about their era? Who created them? For what audience were they intended? For what purpose? How do these sources add to or alter our understanding of American history? How do they confirm or change what you know about the topic from textbooks or other sources.
Historians depend on serendipity (read: dumb luck) and browsing (read: long, tedious hours of fruitless scrounging) to locate sources. I urge you to peruse the library for sources on your topic, since you never know what you may find. Another way to locate sources is to check the footnotes and bibliographies of books and other secondary sources on your subject. And, of course, I am happy to suggest sources as well.
Some good journalistic sources include Life, Newsweek, Time, and The New York Times. Many American history websites contain excellent sources for doing recent American history.
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