Escape Narratives

Due by Monday, Feb. 24th

Annotated Assignment Guidelines

By Monday, Feb. 24th, students will submit a 6 to 8 page narrative essay describing an escape by a runaway slave or slaves in the antebellum US.

  • Students don’t need prior approval for their subjects, but they should consult with Prof. Pinsker voluntarily.   Generally, you can find topics by using the Foner book as a starting point or by consulting with the “Teachable Cases” section of the UGRR web guide on this site.  Some students might also be interested in seeking out group escape episodes from the House Divided Project’s Slave Stampedes research blog.  The  narrative posts at that blog also offer some research and writing models for students in this class.

Each essay should provide background on both the slaveholders and the enslaved and offer a coherent analysis of the escape episode’s larger significance.

  • Explaining context and significance is a critical element of this narrative assignment and will require sophisticated use of secondary sources (like Foner’s Gateway to Freedom) in order to succeed in connecting an individual escape to larger issues such as the domestic slave trade, paternalism and slavery, northern personal liberty laws, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, etc.

All essays should use a wide-ranging combination of high quality primary and secondary sources.

All essays should also be typed and double-spaced as a Word or PDF document while including a title page with descriptive title and Chicago-style footnotes (no bibliography required).

  • Make sure to consult all of the methods resources on citations at the Handouts page on this course site

In addition to the essay, students should also submit a custom-made Google Map on their chosen escape as an appendix.  Well-designed maps can receive up to 5 extra-credit points.

  • You can find model maps here:  Masur’s Civil War and  Booker T. Washington (note the use of dates in placemark titles, to help organize a timeline, the use of quoted and cited excerpts to provide text for the markers, and also extra features like credited images for placemarks and within placemarks)
  • Most maps should include about 6 to 8 placemarks

Both essay and map link should be submitted by email to Prof. Pinsker by 5pm on the due date.  Student work will be graded on research effort, depth of analysis and prose quality. Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points per day.