Monograph essay

This semester you will read Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s Never Caught: The Washington’s Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge, which tells the story of one woman’s escape from bondage at the hands of the United States’ first President.  Using a variety of documentary sources, Dunbar has reconstructed Judge’s life story, providing us with a gripping account of African-American life in the Early Republic.  In conjunction with your textbook readings and with lectures and discussions, this book should help you gain a deeper understanding of American society and culture  in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. 

You will use this newfound knowledge to write an essay on the following question:

How does Ona Judge’s story add to your understanding of slavery and freedom in the Early Republic?  Some things you may wish to address include:  In what ways is Ona Judge’s story typical of an enslaved woman’s life in this period, and how is it exceptional?  She is owned by Martha and George Washington – does their social and political prominence make Judge’s life easier or more complicated? How does it present her with opportunities and challenges?  How and why does Judge escape to freedom?  How is her existence as a free woman complicated by the identity and actions of her former owners? What did this book tell you about slavery and freedom that you did not know before?  What new information did it tell you about George and Martha Washington?

Essay Guidelines:

Your essay is due on Blackboard no later than 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, December 1.  No late work will be accepted without prior approval from the instructor.

Your paper must be at least 1500 words but no more than 1800 words.  It must be submitted via Blackboard as a .doc/.docx or .pdf file – no other document formats will be accepted.

You may only use the following approved sources in your paper (please note that any use of external internet sources is prohibited):

  • Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
  • Experience History! by James Davidson et al.
  • Primary source readings discussed in class and/or posted on Blackboard.

Important notes on this assignment:

  • You have been provided with a grading rubric for this essay. Review the rubric carefully as it will be used to grade your paper. 
  • Please note that you must use and analyze at least 4 examples/quotes from Never Caught to support your argument. Examples and quotes must be thoroughly explained and contextualized – don’t just drop in a quote and move on!
  • Your introduction should address the overarching themes of your answer to the question. Your paper should address each part of the question prompt.
  • Your thesis statement is extremely important and worth a significant portion of your overall paper grade. Make sure you take a position and have an argument. Be decisive!

A Note on Plagiarism:

All papers will be run through SafeAssign, which runs papers through a database to check for plagiarism.  If you have plagiarized your essay you will receive a zero on this assignment and a report will be sent to the Dean’s office in accordance with the Mercy College Academic Integrity Policy. Particularly egregious offenses may receive more serious penalties. 

Paper Formatting:

  • All papers should be double-spaced, 12-point font with 1-inch margins.
  • Your essay should have a title page with your name, the course number, and the date at the top of the page, and a descriptive title for your essay.
  • Each subsequent page should have your last name and the page number (ex. “Eisenbarth 3”) on the top left corner.
  • You must cite your sources according to Chicago style.  There are resources to help you with this style in the assignment folder.
  • You should use footnotes and have a bibliography that includes all the sources you used at the end of your paper (the bibliography does not count towards your word count).
  • You should include your essay’s word count at the end of your paper.

Paper Guidelines

A formal history paper must have a strong introduction and clear thesis. Your introduction must concisely and clearly explain what your paper is about. The thesis is the stated central argument around which your paper is based. The goal of the paper will be to convince the reader of the truth of your argument, so it is absolutely necessary that the reader knows what that argument is.

A historical paper must provide clear analysis of its evidence, revealing and explaining to the reader the information that proves its point.  Once you have decided on an argument (which will likely come to you after you have read a good deal of the book), you must then go about proving it. You cannot merely tell the reader that what you argue is true; you must show your reader that what you argue is true. Make sure that every assertion is backed by evidence. Leave out material that does not matter with regards to your thesis. Use judiciously selected quotes from your sources to show exactly why you are arguing your points. Do not simply drop in a quotation and move on to your next point.  Explain how the quotation supports the argument you are making.

An essay should be logical in its organization at every level. Make sure that sentences make sense and contribute to the overall argument of the paper. Make sure that adjacent sentences relate to one another. Each paragraph should focus on one idea or topic. Like sentences, paragraphs should flow from one to the next with meaningful transitions. The entire construction of the paper should be working in an orderly fashion to build support for your thesis.

Your paper should end with a concluding paragraph that sums up the argument you are making.

You will need to proofread and revise your paper to make sure that it is well-written and well-organized. Making an outline either before or after you have written it might help. A second draft (and third) will improve your paper, make your instructor happier, and result in a better grade. 

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