How would you describe America after the Civil War? 

Earlier in the course, you developed a lesson plan to describe early and mid-Nineteenth Century America using primary sources. You used synthesis to create an argument on the Confederate monuments, Now you use synthesis of primary sources to describe America after the Civil War and into the early twentieth century. Some of the sources are artistic: poetry, drama, literature, photography. We can use the arts to understand a time period.

Assignment directions

Select THREE different primary sources below. Just as with the lesson plan assignment, four of the choices have multiple items within them: there are several Angel Island poems, several Hines photographs, and two extracts each from Sinclair’s novel and Zangwill’s play. You can pick any of these but your other two sources must be from different categories. For example,  you can discuss one Angel Island poem, one Hines photograph, and one excerpt from Sinclair or Zangwill. You should pick diverse sources to better explain the whole time period. Several of the sources are introduced by an editor. The introduction can help you understand the source, but you need to focus on the actual primary source, not the editor’s introduction. Any quotations must be from the primary source, not the editor’s introduction  


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1. Go through each of your three sources and identify key points to support your description of Post-Civil War America. Think about how they can combine to describe the time period.

2. Organize your paper by topic, not by source. Use the matrix format we learned about in the Nevada Constitution assignment or another outline format. You should have at least three topics and each of your three sources should support what you say for at least two of the topics. 

3. Write the synthesis paper, describing America after the Civil War. You are submitting only the synthesis paper. 

Use only the information from the three sources you chose (and the Lecture Notes if needed). I want your analysis, not something you found on the Internet on the subject. Work alone. Be very clear whether something is your idea, the idea of the person or people who wrote the primary source, or the idea of the person or character quoted in the primary source. If you use one of the Hines photographs, you must describe the photograph as if to someone who hasn’t seen it. If there is an editor’s introduction, use it only for background; do not quote from it and do not cite it. I want your analysis not the editor’s. 

2-3 pages, 12 point font, 1 inch margin all around, double-space. You don’t need a title page or Works Cited since you are only discussing the three sources which you will identify in the first paragraph or as soon as you start discussing them. Use proper American English spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and paragraphs.


1. Mississippi Black Codes (Links to an external site.)

2. Wells article

3. Pratt report (Links to an external site.)

4. Angel Island poetry (Links to an external site.)

5. Lazarus poem (Links to an external site.)

6. Hines photographs (Links to an external site.)

7. Sinclair novel excerpts (Links to an external site.)

8. Zangwill play excerpts (Links to an external site.)

9. Regeneracion article (Links to an external site.)

10. Murray article (Links to an external site.)


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