Due October 2, 2023

On Monday, October 2, students will submit a 3-5 page typed, double-spaced essay on a topic covering post-Civil War American life that will be provided to them in class on Thursday, Sep. 28. All essays must include information and quotations from the American Yawp online textbook, properly cited with Chicago-style footnotes. Outside research is allowed but not required.  Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points per day.  PLEASE CHOOSE ONE OF THE FOLLOWING:


  1. What was the most significant political or social change in the United States between 1865 and 1920?
  1. What was the most persistent political or social injustice in the United States between 1865 and 1920?


  • Relevant reading assignments for this essay include several chapters from American Yawp and the primary sources featured on the course site.
  • Please open your paper with a descriptive title and your name (byline).
  • Make sure to address a question and devise a thesis statement that can be effectively argued in a short paper.  Consult the Methods Center handout on How to Write a Thesis Statement 
  • As with any essential question, make sure to define terms, consider the landscape of opinion, and demonstrate respect for complexity and change over time
  • Be specific.  Use examples, dates, statistics and snippets of quotation to support your claims.
  • All essays must include both primary and secondary source material from the assigned readings properly cited using Chicago-style footnotes. Outside research is allowed but not required.
  • Make sure you are using and formatting your footnotes correctly.  Provide footnotes for all quotations and highly specific information (such as statistics). See the models below as well as this methods handout on How to Use Footnotes and consult as needed with the library’s Chicago-style guide, but make sure to use sample footnote models for formatting and NOT bibliography examples.
  • Prof. Pinsker will comment on full or partial drafts over email until Sunday evening.  You may also consult with the Writing Center for help with your essay.  Do not work with other students in the course on your answer.

Sample Footnotes

According to the editors of the American Yawp textbook, “reform became the word of the age.”[1]  Any subsequent citation to Yawp can be abbreviated with only chapter and section number.[2]

[1] Mary Anne Henderson, ed., “The Progressive Era,” in The American Yawp, eds. Joseph Locke and Ben Wright (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2018).

[2] Yawp, 20: IV.

Essays will be graded on depth of analysis, use of evidence, and quality of prose. Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points each day.

  • Organize your essay in a way that respects chronology and historical context.
  • Use past tense except when describing modern scholarship
  • Avoid first person pronouns, including “our”
  • Take to care to evaluate your sources as you deploy them in your essay.  See this methods post on Evaluating Sources for a helpful overall framework.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of integrating your quoted evidence with some degree of fluidity.  Awkwardly inserting quotations is one of the hallmarks of mediocre undergraduate essays.  Consult this handout from the methods center for a range of good tips.
  • Also, please guard against plagiarism.  Remember our discussion from the very first day of the semester.  Never write your own words while looking directly at your sources, especially secondary sources –unless you are quoting them.
  • And finally, always remember to proofread your work by printing it out and reading it aloud, slowly. See our methods handout on How to Proofreed [sic]