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In this assignment, you will review the work you’ve completed on your Project One Writing Plan throughout Week 1 and prepare to submit your work to your instructor for a progress check. Now it is time to submit the first part of the writing plan for your historical event analysis essay: the topic and research question (or questions) for your essay.

As you get ready to start your own historical research, you should know that the first step in any historical analysis is the most basic: choosing a topic to research. In this course, you will be required to submit your research topic for approval at the end of Theme: Approaches to History, Learning Block 1-4.

The topic must be an event in American history. You may choose a topic that is related to any of the case studies contained in this course, or you may choose your own topic, with the approval of your instructor.

Here are a few pointers to help you choose your topic:

  1. Pick a topic that interests you. You’re likely to do more research, and do it faster, when you’re genuinely engaged by your topic.
  2. Pick a topic that is credible and relevant. Avoid sensationalism; don’t waste your time trying to research the history of alien abductions or Elvis sightings. And make sure your topic is historically relevant—that is, a topic that requires you to do real historical research, not just express your opinions.
  3. Narrow it down. A topic that’s too broad will require you to sift through too much information and make it hard for you to focus.
  4. Ask your instructor for ideas. Your instructor can also help you decide what topics are credible and relevant and how to narrow down an overly broad topic.
  5. Make sure you can find the needed resources. If your topic is too obscure or too narrow, you might have trouble finding enough relevant sources.

Sample Topics

The case studies in this course cover the following issues. Click on each tab to learn more about the topic, which will help you decide if it might be something you are interested in researching.

Irish Immigrant Experience

In Theme: Approaches to History, you will learn more about the struggle of immigrants to win equal rights in American society. Our first case study will look at the experience of Irish immigrants in the United States in the 19th century.

Between 1820 and 1860, more than one third of all immigrants to the United States came from Ireland. This wave of majority Catholic immigrants reached its peak during the failure of the potato crop, known as “the Great Hunger.”

Many Irish immigrants were poor and uneducated, making them initially ill-equipped for the emerging industrial economy of America. These immigrants experienced religious discrimination and backlash against their presence in major industrial centers like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.

Québécois Immigrant Experience

The second case study in Theme: Approaches to History explores the experience of Québécois immigrants in the northeastern United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

From the late 19th century until the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929, close to one million French-speaking Canadians are estimated to have come to America is search of jobs. This event is sometimes referred to as the Quebec diaspora.

The rural areas of Quebec were overpopulated, and many families did not have sufficient land to continue farming. Despite their agrarian background, these French-speakers were primarily drawn to industrial jobs in New England, because they needed work so badly. Quebeckers became the primary source of labor in the textile and shoe factories in New England.

The Woman Suffrage Movement and the Nineteenth Amendment

In Theme: Communicating Historical Ideas, you will learn more about the extended fight to win equal rights for American women—at the ballot box, in the workplace, and in society at large. Our first case study looks at the woman suffrage movement (1850-1920) and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which guarantees women the right to vote.

The fight to secure the right to vote for American women was a long and bitter one. Rebuffed by Congress, which refused to include women in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments’ guarantee of voting rights for freed slaves, and by the Supreme Court, which ruled in Minor v. Happersett (1875) that women did not have a constitutionally guaranteed right to vote, advocates for woman suffrage divided sharply over strategy and tactics. Some chose to fight for an amendment to the federal constitution, while others looked to win voting rights, one state at a time.

The two approaches merged in the aftermath of World War I. After more than a dozen states had granted women the right to vote in state and local elections, political pressure for a national amendment began to build. The fight for woman suffrage came to a successful conclusion in 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment won ratification, and all American women finally gained full voting rights.

The Equal Rights Amendment

The second case study in Theme: Communicating Historical Ideas examines the extended national debate over the Equal Rights Amendment and its ultimate failure to win ratification.

In 1923, Alice Paul, a prominent feminist and advocate for women’s rights, announced that she would propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ensure the same rights to women and men. This seemingly simple proposition nonetheless engendered decades of controversy and heated debate, and it was not until 1972 that a version of Paul’s Equal Rights Amendment was finally approved by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

The debate over ratification played out at a time of tumultuous social change: women entered the workforce in record numbers, women’s-rights advocates challenged centuries-old symbols of male privilege, and the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade (1973), affirmed women’s right to reproductive choice. While the path to ratification at first seemed clear, ERA opponents, led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, fought back. Their essential argument—that granting women equal rights would deprive them of important benefits, including workplace protections—was embraced by organized labor and by many working-class women.

As national support for the ERA began to flag, Congress extended the deadline for ratification by three years, but it was not enough. In 1982, the deadline ran out, with the ERA still three states shy of the 38 needed for ratification. The fight for equal rights had, at least for the time being, fallen short.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965

The first case study in Theme: Analyzing History looks at the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its impact on African-American political participation.

While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed overt discrimination in public accommodations and government services, it did not directly address the most fundamental denial of African-American rights: the concerted effort to prevent African Americans from exercising their right to vote.

President Lyndon Johnson’s landslide election victory in 1964 emboldened him to seek voting-rights legislation, despite concerns that this would alienate conservative Southern Democrats whose support was needed to pass Johnson’s Great Society social programs. Television coverage of the brutal police response to peaceful voting-rights protesters in the South—most notably, the attack on protesters at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama—galvanized public support for a bill.

Southern opposition in Congress was fierce: opponents waged a 24-day filibuster in the Senate, and Southerners in the House used every parliamentary tactic they could find to block the legislation. But it eventually passed and was signed into law on August 6, 1965, with both Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in attendance.

The immediate impact of the Voting Rights Act was a dramatic surge in African-American political participation, with a commensurate increase in the number of African Americans elected to public office. In the longer term, the Voting Rights Act contributed to a historic realignment of the two political parties that has had a profound impact on American politics and society.

School Desegregation in Boston

The second case study in Theme: Analyzing History looks at the issue of school desegregation.

Securing equal educational opportunity was a central goal of the civil rights movement, which counted its first major victory in Lower 48 states, a consortium of oil companies proposed building the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which would carry the oil from Prudhoe Bay to the port of Valdez.

The pipeline would need to traverse land whose ownership was in dispute: Native land claims, many of them dating back to Alaska’s purchase in 1867, had to be settled before any pipe could be laid. That urgent economic necessity triggered one of the most innovative economic development efforts in American history.

To ensure that the pipeline would be built, Congress in 1971 passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), which granted Natives $963 million and up to 44 million acres of federal land, in return for ending their claims on the land where the pipeline was to be built. To administer these grants, the law set up 12 regional corporations (a 13th was added later) and more than 200 local corporations, which would develop their land and run their own businesses for the benefit of their Native shareholders.

The express goal of the corporations was to improve the economic well-being of Alaska Natives, whose living conditions were arguably the worst of any Native group in the country. To date, the corporations’ record has been mixed: some of the corporations have been highly successful, while others have performed poorly. But the use of corporations to foster Native economic development remains one of the nation’s most innovative attempts to improve the lot of Native peoples.

Below is an example of what your assignment should look like:

Jane Doe

HIS 200: Applied History

Southern New Hampshire University

April 5, 2016


Topic and Research Question

Topic: For my historical event analysis, I have chosen to focus on Congressman John F. Fitzgerald of Boston, the son of Irish immigrants, and his opposition to an 1897 immigration bill, which would have barred illiterate foreigners from entering the United States.

Research Question: How did John Fitzgerald’s political ambitions, and the interests of the Democratic Party in Massachusetts, affect his position on the 1897 immigration reform bill?

The rubric and guidelines for this assignment are included in the attachment.

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