The purpose of this essay is to put your knowledge of U.S. History into practice by interviewing a person or group to get an inside perspective into what it was like to live in a particular time or is like to live as the member of a particular group within a society. While you can learn a lot about history from textbooks and primary sources, it is a different experience to actually talk to someone who lived through a time, witnessed an important event, and/or participated in a historical movement.
First, prepare by determining who you will choose as the focus of the essay and get their permission to be interviewed and recorded if using a phone call or Zoom. You must choose someone who is from a former generation than your own (at least old enough to be your parent’s age). You will want to familiarize yourself with the history and characteristics of the culture your interviewee is from to provide context for what you learn. Next, write out your questions. You will need to think about what you want to know before you interview the person.
Conduct the interview. Transcribe the interview.
Write a 1500-word essay. Organize your thoughts into a rough outline for your essay. You will be responding to the following prompt: What does the individual’s experiences and/or perspective tell us about the larger historical or social context in which they lived? Your thesis statement should be a direct answer to this question. Organize your paper to include subtopics that support the thesis. Your paragraphs should contain succinct quotes from the interviewee, followed by explanation, analysis, and interpretation. To properly contextualize, you will need to draw upon information from both the textbook and other course materials from this semester, including primary sources. Cite all examples and direct quotes using Chicago-Style footnotes. Conclude with a paragraph that ties all your analysis together.
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