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 Social Protest Movements 

The 1960s was a decade of great political and social tumult.  The period is marked by the emergence of a number of historically significant protest movements.  The Civil Rights Movement, the Free Speech Movement, the Women’s Rights Movement, and the protests against American participation in the Vietnam War captured the essence of an American society on the edge of transformative social and political reform.


This essays requires students to answer two separate but related questions.


First, which of the social protests organizations/movements would you have supported?

Be specific in your selection of organizations/movements.  For instance, if you wish to discuss the Civil Rights Movement, then identify a specific organization (ex: NAACP, CORE, SCLC, SNCC, BPP, NOI).  If you wish to discuss the women’s rights movement, then identify a specific organization (ex: NOW).  You can do the same with the anti-Vietnam War protests organizations, or those associated with the various student movements on college campuses (SDS, etc.).


Explain why these movements needed your support.

Explain why you think their cause was most necessary.


This part of the essay should be no more than two pages.


Second, which of the social protest movements do you think was most effective at advancing change?  This part of the essay is more argumentative, so you must incorporate historical evidence to prove your point.


There are a number of sub-questions that you can answer to address the second question, including but not limited to:

What actual reforms can be linked to the protest movement (legislative, social, political, etc.)?  Why was the social protest movement so effective (why were people drawn to it? Why did politicians and the general public take notice of and advance its objectives?)

What were the techniques and strategies employed by the movement that made it successful?  Were the techniques and strategies different from other contemporary movements?

Who was the leader of the movement? Why was he/she important?

What was going on in American society that made the movement so successful?

Why should historians believe that the movement you have identified was so successful?


Essay Structure: 


First, the introduction needs to present a two-pronged thesis.  The thesis will essentially identify the social protest movement that you would have supported and why.  Then give the reader a quick indication as to why that particular movement was most effective at advancing change?  Remember, the thesis is the most important part of the essay.  Be sure to write a thesis that is clear in its purpose and is easily identified by the reader.


Body paragraphs 2 and 3 should justify your response to the first question.  Why would you support __________ organization?  To prove your position, you must have historical reasoning and logic.  For instance, if you answer to the first question is “I would support the NAACP,” then perhaps you would explain the state of the segregated public school system.  Or if you would have supported the SCLC maybe explain the need to reform segregated communities in general.   It’s important to make the response to the first question about which movement you would support based on substantive historical reasoning.  Avoid writing something like “I would support SNCC because it was filled with college students and I’m a college student.”  Try to be sophisticated and historically minded in your answer.


Body paragraphs 4 and 5 need to validate your response to the second question: What made the movement successful?  You must reference specific historical evidence to prove your point.  General discussion does not constitute evidence.  Imagine engaging in a conversation with someone where you try to illustrate why the movement was successful, you would need to discuss the organization’s accomplishments.

Remember, an argument without evidence is not really an argument.  And an essay that does not make an argument fails to complete the objectives of the assignment.


Finally, the essay needs a formal conclusion.


Writing Standards:


The essay will be 4 pages long.

Standard margins.

12 point times new roman font.

In-text parenthetical citations.  For example: (Foner, 3), or (Johnson, 25).

The essay needs to reference/cite at least 3 sources from the list of required resources (readings/videos).  If the essay does not reference at least 3 sources, the grade will be penalized.