Eric Foner, ed. Voices of Freedom: A Documentary History — response paper
Write a short response paper of 3-4 pages, double-spaced in which they analyze a primary source from Eric Foner, ed. Voices of Freedom: A Documentary History. Freedom or liberty is a concept whose meaning keeps changing over time as society changes. As Prof. Foner notes in his Preface, ?The history of the United States is, in part, a story of debates, disagreements, and struggles over freedom.? In such contexts as the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War II and the Cold War the meaning changes, expands and in some contexts (such as the Salem Witchcraft trials and other events) contracts. Voices of Freedom contains 98 documents written by people who lived in America between 1620 and 1877. Pick one document, photocopy it (so you have a copy of your own that you can underline and mark up) and then write me a paper about it. Foner provides an introduction to each document to offer some context and guide your thinking as you read it.
Suggestions on how to write the paper: After underlining what you feel is important in the document, take notes, paraphrasing what you consider to be the key points made by the document writer. You should begin by identifying the document and, if possible, the writer (Google might help if Foner doesn?t). Then faithfully describe what the writer is saying and when he/she is saying it.
After a page or so of descriptive narrative, begin to analyze and critically evaluate the essay. Here are some questions that will help you do it:
1. Briefly, what is the year that the document was written and what is the context (i.e. what was occurring in American society at the time)?
2. Foner has two questions at the end of each document: what are they and how do you answer them?
Here are some other questions/ideas you should consider:
3. What is the author?s central argument or thesis-can you identify it? Who is the audience the author is trying to reach?
4. How does the author use an example (or examples in the essay) to support his/her argument(s)?
5. What does this document tell us about its time period=era?
6. How does it help us to understand what contemporary people thought about freedom in their society?
7. Why is this document significant enough for Foner to put it in the book?
8. What does this document suggest about the broader political, social or economic context of the era in which it was written?
9. How might you or an opponent of the author (such as the King or a major merchant, or a plantation slave owner, or a Catholic settler, etc.) criticize this document?
10. Any other questions of your own?
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