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AP US History DBQ example 2

Kim talks about how to analyze the documents in the document-based question section of the AP US History exam.

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] In this video we're talking some more about the DBQ or document-based question section of the AP U.S. history exam. In our first video we just went through some general strategy about how to approach the question, which asks you to write an essay with a thesis statement addressing this question about the social and economic experiences of African Americans moving from the South to the North in the period 1910 to 1930 using a series of primary documents which are provided in the exam. In this video we're gonna start taking a look at these documents and it's going to seem like this might take forever because I'm going through them really slowly and methodically, but actually on the exam itself you'll be able to look at these and get a sense of what's going on pretty quickly. So let's go through these documents one by one and I'm gonna put them up on the screen and go through them and take a few notes on them so that we can see all of them before we go about the process of writing a thesis statement. So the first document we have here is an African American folk saying from the South in the 1910s. And the folk saying says the white man got half the crop, boll-weevil took the rest, and I ain't got no home. So what does this remind you of? Well, it's definitely a reference here to sharecropping which was a system of agricultural labor devised after the Civil War where white men would own a bunch of land and then rent portions of it to African American farmers and in return those farmers had to give portions of their crops back to the landowners. So this really ended in a never-ending cycle of debt for sharecroppers who could never get ahead. It also mentions the boll weevil which was a pest that got into the cotton crop, which really reduced the amount of cotton produced in the South and led to a major economic crisis. And lastly it talks about a kind of sense of dislocation, right? You don't have a home because you're in serious economic trouble. All right, not bad. Let's move on to a second document. All right, well this one is a lot longer so I'm gonna try to squeeze it in here. It says it is a letter from a prospective African American migrant in 1917 who lives in New Orleans. He writes, "Dear Sirs, "being desirous of leaving the South for "the betterment of my condition generally "and seeking a home somewhere in Illinois "Chicago or some other prosperous town "I am at sea about the best place to locate "having a family dependent upon me for support. "I am informed by the Chicago Defender, "a very valuable paper which has for its purpose "the uplifting of my race, "and of which I am a constant reader and real lover, "that you were in a position to show some light "to one in my condition. "Seeking a Northern home. "If this is true kindly inform me by next mail "the next best thing to do being a poor man "with a family to care for. "I am not coming to live on flowery beds of ease "for I am a man who works and wish to make "the best I can out of life. "I do not wish to come there hoodwinked "and not know where to go or what to do. "so I solicit your help in this matter "and thanking you in advance for what advice "you may be pleased to give. "I am yours for success." So in this document it's a man who is trying to relocate to the North and he's drawing on the assistance of the Chicago Defender, which was a major black newspaper. And he's also saying that he is maybe afraid of being hoodwinked, so you could see that perhaps he's heard some rumors that Southerners moving to the North might get into trouble or be conned some how. And he's also very eager to say that he doesn't want to live on flowery beds of ease. He's a working man. So he is coming expecting to do a good job. He's looking for work and he's trying to put to rest any stereotypes that he could be a lazy man. Okay, here's our third document. It is an article in the magazine Industrial Management from 1918, and it's written by Dwight Thompson Farnham. That's not anyone we've ever heard of before, but says he's a efficiency expert, so someone whose job it is to make sure that businesses are run efficiently. And his article is called Negroes as a Source of Industrial Labor. Here's what he says. "A certain amount of segregation is necessary "at times to preserve the peace. "This is especially true when negroes are first "introduced into a plant. "It is a question if it is not always best "to have separate washrooms and the like. "In places where different races necessarily come "into close contact and in places where inherited "characteristics are especially accentuated, "it is better to keep their respective folkways "from clashing wherever possible." So in this document it seems like he is advising people who own factories to segregate workers. So if they're going to hire black laborers, that they have to keep them separate from whites, especially in bathrooms or places where inherited characteristics are especially accentuated, whatever that means. To me it sounds like a sort of racist biology that he's quoting here. I think another thing that he's saying is he's giving a clue that white workers in the North are not necessarily going to be friendly to black workers, so I think it's fair to say that it shows that African Americans moving to the North are going to face racism and various forms of violence or maybe even strikes from white people who don't want to work with them. All right, let's do one more. This is another long one. A article from a white-owned newspaper, seems like that's important, from Jackson, Mississippi about a race riot in Chicago in 1919. The article says, "The only surprising feature "about the race riot in Chicago yesterday "is that it did not assume larger proportions. "Trouble has been brewing in that city "for several months and nothing short of "exceptionally good work by the police department "can prevent further clashes. "The native white population of Chicago "bitterly resents the influx of negro labor "and especially the housing of blacks "in white neighborhoods. "The decent, hard-working, law-abiding Mississippi "negroes who were lured to Chicago by the bait "of higher wages only to lose their jobs "or forced to accept lower pay after the labor shortage "became less acute are hereby notified that they will be "welcomed back home and find their old positions "waiting for them. "Mississippi may lynch a negro when he commits "the most heinous of all crimes, "but we do not blow up the innocent with bombs "or explode sticks of dynamite on their doorsteps." Well, youch. There's a lot going on here. First, you can see that this is a white-owned newspaper and it seems like maybe they're trying to spread the word to African Americans who maybe have not yet left the South that things are not that great in the North, right? 'Cause they don't want to lose their source of labor to the North. So basically they're saying that if African Americans stay in the South they might get lynched, but that's better than being killed in a race riot. I think what we can take away from this is in general there weren't many good options for African Americans in this time period because in the South you have lynch law and in the North you have race riots. So the question is was one better than the other? Now there are still three more documents for us to look at and we'll get to those in the next video, but I think if we have to kind of theorize right now about what's going on, it seems like there are many African Americans who have been seriously hurt economically by sharecropping and the boll weevil infestation who are looking to go North, but they're finding that when they go North they may face segregation and violence that may or may not be better than the lynch law of the South. In the next video we'll take a look at the last three documents and then we'll take a stab at writing a strong thesis statement based on this evidence.