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Short-Essay Exam Guidelines and Prompts

This exam covers the material from across the semester with a focus on Weeks 5–8 of the semester. It is composed of three thematic short-essay questions for which you will write responses. Each one is worth 50 points (150 total). You have the option to select three questions to answer from the list of four below. If you answer all four I will only grade the first three. Each essay should illustrate your deep engagement with and comprehension of the assigned readings (both the textbook and assigned primary and secondary source documents). Outside research is not permitted.

These are formal analytical essays and will be evaluated on your ability to craft a clear, original argument and write an organized/structured paper. You should NOT conduct outside research for this essay. You should rely exclusively on material in our textbook and other class readings.

Your exam will be graded on your ability to engage closely with the required course materials as well as your depth of analysis and level of detail and nuance. Your essays, though relatively short in length, should be well supported with examples and evidence from the course materials that are linked with each other. Students who only draw from the textbook and do not engage with a range of materials and sources will receive a low grade. Please note that this exam should be significantly more formal and analytical in nature than your weekly Think Piece Discussion Board posts. These short essays should not be reflective or based in your personal experiences, but should demonstrate a mastery of the course themes and close engagement with the assigned course materials.

   Essay Prompts (Reminder: select and respond to three of the four below):

  1. Describe the impact of World War II and the Cold War on diverse groups of Americans. Be sure to consider the role of the wars on marginalized ethnoracial groups like Japanese Americans, African Americans, Latinx Americans and struggles for freedom on the homefront, as well as repression during the McCarthy era. 
  2. Examine the shifting roles of American women from the end of the Civil War to the today. Consider how women challenged traditional gender roles and became political actors, as well as the emergence of feminist movements. Be sure to include an intersectional analysis that considers how other identity markers (such race, ethnicity, class, etc) impacted their experiences as women.
  3. Describe how the civil rights and Black Power movements emerged. Consider any leading organizations, their varying ideologies and organizing strategies (ie how they fought for civil rights and articulate their struggle in their writing), and at least two major turning points in the movement(s).
  4. How has the meaning of freedom changed for Americans from the end of the Civil War to today? What have been the dominant meanings? Have some faded away while others remained? Has more than one meaning of freedom existed at the same time and have these meanings been in conflict with each other?


Each essay should be 750 words long and should conform to standard formatting guidelines: Times New Roman, 12-point font, one-inch margins, double-spaced, and pages number. Please submit ONE file with both essays (either a Microsoft Word file or a PDF, NOT a pages file nor a link to a Google doc) and make sure to put your name, the course number, your professor’s name, and the date in the heading. Be sure to cite all sources. You can cite authors in the text leading up to a quotation or you can cite them in simple parenthetical references (author last name, page number).

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