Unit Essay Guidelines

These guidelines further specify the sections ofthe syllabus that describe the
requirements for the five “Unit Essays,” which together count for 66% of your
course grade. We have designed these guidelines so that your weekly assignments
will build directly toward the construction of your essay. First, this is what the
syllabus already says:

“What To Look For and the Question You Need to Answer

From both Foner and the newspaper articles, your assignment is to determine these crucial facets of
the period for each unit: 1] What were the sources of social power (material and ideological] in that
period? 2] Who [actual individual people as representatives ofsocial groups] held the dominant
position through their control of social power? (note, this varies greatly by region]; 3] What were
sources of challenges to the dominant ideologies and powerful individuals? 4] What alternatives
were proposed in each period? 5] How can you explain the resolution of the contest over
alternatives for each unit, or “turning point”?

The short essay for each unit answers question [5], based on your assessment of 1-4.

What Shall I Focus On?

You will find a whole world of concerns in these newspapers, so you will need some targets to guide
your searching. Your basic rule should be to use the major subject headings in Foner as the starting
point. Your five articles should be “about” at least three ofthe major section headings in the Foner
chapter for that week, and your Unit essay should focus on a “through line” of related issues, drawn
from those section headings.

To make sure everyone is clear on what this entails we have prepared the following
more detailed guidelines:

1) The overarching question you are being asked is:

How can you explain the resolution of the contest over alternatives during the
period covered by each unit, or “turning point”?

How might you begin to approach this?

You need to decide why and how the America at the beginning of this turning-
point period turned into the America of the end of that period.

To do this, you first need to think about questions 1-4 outlined above – who had
power, who challenged those who had power, and the range ofideas these groups
had about American society, politics, economics and culture.
2) These can become HUGE questions to cover! So to answer them, you need to
make the task less huge. Think about ONE MAIN theme covered in that unit’s
readings and lectures, in which you are particularly interested.

So, for example, you might choose “labor relations” as your theme, or “woman’s
rights [feminism,” the exact wording of each theme can vary, just so long as it
faithfully represents a theme that is clearly evident in the course materials.