HIS 170 / AAS 170 First Response Paper
Write a 700-900 word (roughly 3 page) essay on the history of slavery and abolition in early colonial Africa, as seen through the book Abina and the Important Men. The essay is due on Wednesday, September 28, in class. You must submit it two different ways:
1) Bring a hard copy with you to class.
2) Upload your paper to SafeAssign.
Late papers will be penalized 6 points if they are not submitted by the deadline. The 6 point penalty buys you an extra 24 hours. After that, the papers are penalized 1.5 points for every subsequent 24 hours they are late.
In practice, this means that you should try very hard to submit your paper on time. If that is impossible, and if you are going to need more time to write the essay, then you should consider taking enough time to write the essay properly, because the penalties for late submission are much less steep after the first day.
If you are having problems with SafeAssign (which sometimes happens; it’s not a very good program), message me your paper and explain your situation, and we can sort it out.
As a general rule, I do not grant extensions for papers, but there are always exceptions, mostly for health or family emergencies. If you have an issue that you think merits an extension, please discuss your situation with me.
Abina and the Important Men is a book that uses engaging methods (graphic novel!) to illuminate some of the important themes of African history – slavery, abolition, gender, and early colonial rule. The book also does a good job of illustrating the difficulty of understanding African history when we have so few sources, and even fewer sources that give us the perspective of marginalized people (like slaves and women).
Your assignment is to read the first 4 parts of Abina. If you have the first edition (the one with the white cover), this is up to page 137. If you have the second edition (the one with the black cover), this is up to page 157. Once you have done the reading, you will then write a short response paper that discusses some of the important themes covered in the book, and their connection with the early history of colonial Africa.
Here are some potential questions to help guide you:
1) Slavery in Africa was, as we have discussed, different than slavery in the Americas. How does Abina shed light on those differences? Conversely, what about Abina’s situation as a slave makes her life similar to, or comparable to, the lives of slaves in the Americas?
2) The participants in this book – Abina, Melton, Davis, Eddoo – all have different ideas about what makes someone a slave. Analyze how these different individuals had different understandings of slavery. On what points did they disagree in order to make their arguments that Abina was either a slave or was not a slave?
3) Abina’s story takes place at a time when Britain is first beginning to expand its colonial empire in Africa. What role do British officials play in the story? How do other actors think about British involvement in Africa? What does the story suggest about the early history of colonial rule in Africa?
4) History is often focused on powerful men – Mansa Musa, George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, whoever. Abina, in contrast, is trying very hard to recover the viewpoint of a woman who was not powerful. What is the value in this approach? How does it help us understand the past?
5) Discuss how the authors use primary sources to make their argument. What decisions did they have to make in interpreting the primary source document? Are there any aspects of their interpretation that you find particularly persuasive, or that you think might be wrong?
One important note: these questions are here to help you, not to restrain you. You can answer one of these questions, or a mix of more than one of these questions, or you can answer none of these questions – if you want to write about another aspect of the book, one which does not appear on the list above, you are welcome to do so.
Although the guidelines say 700 to 900 words, you should write more, if you wish to do so. There is no hard limit on how many words you can write, so if you think you need more than 900 words to answer these questions, feel free to write them.
What you should not do is write filler just to hit 700 words. This is a short essay for a reason: it should be tightly argued and well-written. You don’t want to write filler, and we don’t want to read it, because filler is very boring, so make sure your essay is compact.
The best way to do this is to organize your essay around a thesis statement. Your thesis statement will guide the rest of your paper. For that reason, your thesis statement should be an argument, rather than a statement of fact, or an opinion, or a value judgment. Once you have an argument, you can then organize the body paragraphs in a way that supports your thesis statement. This will help ensure that your essay is coherent. Every paragraph will be doing something to support your larger argument, rather than pulling off in all sorts of different directions.
This will also allow you to use the text of Abina to support your arguments in a targeted way. Lots of students write essays that summarize books, but that is not the purpose of the assignment; we have also read the book, and we do not need to read a shorter version of it. Instead, use the book to support your argument. Come up with short quotes that highlight what you are saying, instead of long meandering quotations that don’t have any direct connection to your essay. Put differently, your argument should be driving your essay, and it should use the book primarily to help support its points; your essay should not simply summarize the book itself.
It will be much easier to accomplish all of these tasks if you write well. Communicating clearly and concisely is an important skill, and it’s something that will matter when your essays are graded. Take your writing seriously. Proofread your paper. Edit your paper. Go to the writing center. Ask a friend to proofread your paper. Do whatever it takes to ensure that you are communicating clearly and effectively.
You are not required to use other sources, and I do not expect anyone to need to use outside sources for the purposes of this assignment. If you wish to use other sources, you should request permission from me first, or else risk getting a zero on the assignment for plagiarism. If you do not ask permission and manage to cite your sources properly, that’s fine, but many students do not know how to cite properly. Getting permission before citing outside sources will help guard against this risk.
If you decide to cite other sources without consulting me first, use the Turabian citation system, also known as the Chicago citation system. A quick Google search will show you many websites with helpful guides on how to cite sources. There is no excuse for not citing properly, and any papers that do not properly cite their sources will receive a zero.
Do not plagiarize. If you are having trouble writing your essay, you may be tempted to pop a search term into Google, look around for a website that might help you start to figure things out, find some ideas or some sentences that you can borrow for your own essay. If that happens, you need to resist the temptation.
Try to think this through before you start to go down that path. Even if you write a really bad essay, it will probably receive a D, or maybe a high F, like a 55 or a 65. Your essay probably won’t even be that bad, but let’s assume the worst. Getting a D or an F obviously isn’t great, but you can recover from one bad essay. On the other hand, if you plagiarize your paper, you will receive a 0. That’s a much deeper hole to dig yourself out of. I will also send you to the Academic Honor Board, which means that you will likely be put on academic probation, and you may be suspended, or worse.
Students often think that if they only take a few sentences from a website, or summarize a website but don’t use the same words, then it’s not really plagiarism. This is wrong. Ignorance is not an excuse anyway, but even if it were, you need to understand that taking someone else’s ideas without citing them is always plagiarism – no matter if it’s 1 sentence or 5 paragraphs, if it’s using their exact words or using different words.
The easiest way to avoid all these issues is to just write the essay without snooping around elsewhere. If you do find outside sources that you think are so perfect that you just have to use them, then cite them properly.
Above all, make sure you err on the side of caution. One way to do that is to ask me any questions that you might have about what is and is not permissible. Another way to do that is to simply avoid doing anything that could suggest that you are plagiarizing other people’s work. Either way, make sure that you do not plagiarize your paper.
An A-range paper is clearly written and well-organized. It demonstrates that the writer has conducted a close and critical reading of the text, grappled with the issues raised in the course, and formulated a perceptive, compelling work of analysis.
A B-range paper demonstrates many aspects of A-level work but falls short in either the organization and clarity of its writing, or in the formulation and presentation of its argument. It may be well-written, but be lacking in analysis and interpretation. Alternatively, it may not present its insights clearly or convincingly, due to weaknesses in writing, argument, organization, or use of evidence.
A C-range paper offers little more than a mere summary, does not respond to the assignment adequately, suffers from frequent factual errors, unclear writing, poor organization, inadequate research, or presents some combination of these problems.
A D paper demonstrates serious deficiencies or severe flaws in the essay, reflecting that the student does not understand the material, or did not respond to the assignment.
An F paper demonstrates no competence. It indicates a student`s near-total neglect or lack of effort in writing the essay.
Abina and the Important Men Name Institutional Affiliation The History of Slavery and Abolition In Early Colonial Africa, As Seen Through The Book `Abina And The Important Men` In the book, Abina describes the slavery conditions in Africa, and from the descriptions, various differences can be drawn from slavery in America. The book does not explain whether the protagonist was born into slavery or was sold but one thing is clear; she is already a slave. Abina uses her experience to shed light on the differences between slavery in Africa and America. One notable difference is the fact that black people were not allowed to own slaves in America while it was influential black people like Eddo who sold slaves to the white person and had the privilege of owning slaves even after the c