AP®︎ US History worked examples
AP US History multiple choice example 1
- [Kim] So this video is about the multiple choice section on the AP U.S. history exam. And now I know you're thinking Whoa, Kim, this is a multiple choice section. How much help could we possibly need with this? Either you know the answer or you don't. Au contraire mon ami. Thankfully the multiple choice section on this exam is not just a laundry list of facts that you know or you don't know or you just leave blank. What's really great about the way these questions are designed is that they really reward you for having intuition about what's going on in any time period in American history. So you might not necessarily need to know a pop quiz of facts about slavery in the 19th century, but if you have a general idea of who the major players are, what the major ideas are, then you'll actually prosper in this section, more than you might think. So let's take a look at these quotes over here. Now each of the questions on the multiple choice portion of the exam will relate back to a series of quotes like this or maybe a chart or a political cartoon. The good news is that they're not just independent of each other. They're always going to relate back to that chart, that graph, that political cartoon. So these two quotes are actually related to four questions, and each set of quotes or cartoon will have about two to four questions that go with it. So you should really spend a lot of time reading these documents and reading them carefully. And before you even go about trying to answer the questions, try to get a sense of who the people are who are speaking, what their main points are, and how they're making their argument, before you even take a stab at any of the questions. So let's do that with what we have here. So this is a real practice question from the AP exam, and it consists of two quotes, one from James Henry Hammond, and one from Frederick Douglass. Now Douglass you've probably heard of before. James Henry Hammond maybe not so much. All right, well first let's think about where they are in time. So we've got Hammond in 1845 and Douglass in 1852. So it's the late Antebellum Period getting into the period just before the Civil War. We know there are a lot of arguments about slavery and whether it should exist at this time period. So, all right, that's a pretty easy baseline for where we are in time. Okay, now where are we in space? Well we know that James Henry Hammond is from South Carolina. What about Frederick Douglass? Do we have any clues as to where he is? Well, there's nothing listed here, but let's move into who these people actually are. So we've got Frederick Douglass and he's a pretty key figure in American history. So Frederick Douglass we know was a former enslaved person who escaped and he was very active in the abolitionist movement. The abolitionists were the group of mostly Northern intellectuals who believed that slavery should be ended right this minute everywhere in the United States, if not the world. So this is probably a pretty good clue that we're looking at someone from the North. What about James Henry Hammond? Have you heard of him before? Probably not, but we do know some things about him. We know that he's in South Carolina, southern part of the country. And we know that he's a governor, so we can reasonably assume that he's pretty elite. We can be pretty certain since this is before the Civil War that he's white. So you see that I'm making some assumptions about who James Henry Hammond is here. I think he's probably a wealthy person. I think he's probably white. And you may be saying to yourself whoa, whoa, whoa. What if James Henry Hammond was the one exception to the rule and he was from the working class or he was that one African American governor that we never talk about from before the Civil War? Basically the question you're asking is could this be a trick? And the answer is generally no. Almost never is the AP U.S. history exam going to try to trick you with that one strange exception to the rule, because they want you to build this intuition. They want to say all right, what do you know about American history and how can you fit these questions into that rubric? You even have kind of a clue that you probably shouldn't know who this guy is because they have to explain who he is in the first place. Right? They have to say this was a governor of South Carolina. Whereas Frederick Douglass, you can be pretty sure that you've heard of him and you know what he was about. So trust your instincts here because people are gonna be more or less who they seem in these circumstances. All right, let's finally read these quotes. "Still though a slaveholder, I freely acknowledge "my obligations as a man and I am bound "to treat humanely the fellow creatures "whom God has entrusted to my charge. "It is certainly in the interest of all "and I am convinced it is the desire "of every one of us to treat our slaves "with proper kindness." All right, so what is he saying here? First, he's saying he himself is a slaveholder, so we've got a good idea of who he is. He's a wealthy, white person who owns slaves in the South. So we can guess that he's probably pro-slavery. What else is he saying? He's saying that slaveholders should treat enslaved people with kindness. All right, he says that he's convinced it's the desire of every one of us. Well, this doesn't quite seem to jive with what we know about slavery in the South. It's a cruel and terrible institution. So it sounds like Hammond might be making kind of an excuse for slavery? Or at least say maybe slavery is not so bad? And I think there's one other thing kind of lurking in here, which is this idea that God has trusted fellow creatures to his charge. So he's almost saying that God made the system of slavery. That the way things are is the way that God wanted them to be. So this is almost a religious argument for slavery, saying God wanted it to be this way, God has entrusted these people to his care. So what's Frederick Douglass saying here? He's saying, "Standing with God and the crushed "and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, "in the name of humanity which is outraged, "and in the name of Liberty which is fettered, "in the name of the constitution and Bible, "which are disregarded and trampled upon, "dare to call in question and denounce slavery "'the great sin and shame of America'!" Well, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that Douglass does not agree with Hammond. So I think these two quotes are pretty much diametrically opposed. So where Hammond says that God entrusted enslaved people to his care, Douglass is saying he's standing with God and the crushed Bible to say that slavery is condemned by Christianity. What else is he saying? Well, he's saying liberty and the constitution are being trampled upon, so that there's a patriotic appeal maybe also for why the Declaration of Independence and the idea of all men are created equal is not compatible with slavery. So while Hammond is saying oh, I think that all people who own slaves desire to treat them kindly and God has entrusted us with slaves, this is the natural order meant by the Almighty. Douglass is saying, no, this is the great sin and shame of America. It is not a Christian institution and it is not an institution which is compatible with the ideals of the United States. So we've got a ton of information out of these documents and we haven't even looked at a multiple choice question yet. All right, are you ready to take some on? Let's do it. All right, this is an actual AP practice question, and the first thing you want to do when you're approaching one of these questions is to read it really carefully. So the excerpt from James Henry Hammond is most clearly an example of which of the following developments in the mid-19th century? All right, so we're only looking at Hammond. And we're specifically thinking about the mid-19th century, so put ourselves there in time, that kind of 1850s era. Let's go through the possible answers one by one, and if we don't like something, we will cross it out right away. All right, option A. The decline of slavery in Southern states as a result of gradual emancipation laws. All right, so says that slavery was declining as a result of gradual emancipation laws. Well, I don't think that can be true, right? Because if anything, slavery's getting stronger before the Civil War. I don't remember any gradual emancipation laws in the South. So let's get rid of that. All right, option B. The increasingly restrictive nature of slavery in the South enforced by stronger slave codes. Well, there certainly were more slave codes in the 1850s and they were pretty restrictive, but is that what the excerpt is talking about? No, he's talking about kindness and that slave owners should treat their slaves kindly, so that's probably not the right one, but let's leave it on the table for now just in case there's not a better answer. The expanding use of moral arguments by Northern anti-slavery activists. Well, Hammond is a Southerner, so I'm gonna go with no. All right, option D. The growing tendency among Southern slaveholders to justify slavery as a positive good. Yeah, I think that's actually the best option. Right? Because he's saying God intended this, we're trying to treat them with kindness. So it's a very pro-slavery argument made on the grounds that slavery is a good institution. Now it's worth noting that one of these options, option B, what it says is true. But it's not a clear example of what Hammond is saying in the excerpt, so make sure that you're answering the question that you're actually being asked, not just looking for what could be factually true among the answers. All right, I think this is enough for this video, but stay tuned to the next video and we'll do a few more examples.
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