American Civilization History and A.P. U.S. History Mr. Schulkin
Assignment Sheet for The Valley of the Shadow Paper


         The World Wide Web has made it possible for high school students to gain direct access to places which were previously restricted to professional scholars: archives filled with primary sources.   The Valley of the Shadow is one such archive.   The purpose of this assignment is to provide students with the opportunity to do original research in this electronic archive, to experience first hand what it means to work with an extensive collection of primary sources.   Prior to the advent of the World Wide Web, most students were fortunate to be able to examine a limited number of primary sources in order to enhance their understanding of an historical problem they had already been introduced to on the basis of secondary sources.   The following assignment aims at going beyond such exercises to provide students with the experience of constructing their own historical accounts based on the examination of a substantial number of primary sources.   It is hoped that each student will thereby come to understand what it means to do original historical research, what it is like to try to make sense of the primary sources and what historians must do to fill in the gaps in their sources.

I.   The Two Collections With Which We Will Be Working

         Because our survey of United States History has paid little attention thus far to the plight of African Americans during the antebellum period and because The Valley of the Shadow archive contains two collections with abundant primary sources pertaining to such individuals, we are focusing in this assignment on issues which can be illuminated by examining the Register of Free Blacks, Augusta County, Virginia and/or The 1860 Census for Augusta County.

II.   The Nature of the Assigned Paper

        After completing a series of preliminary exercises designed to familiarize you with both the Register of Free Blacks, Augusta County, Virginia and The 1860 Census for Augusta County, each student will be required to write a paper of between 750 and 1500 words dealing with ONE of the following:

1.   Did free mulattoes in the South enjoy greater opportunities for economic and occupational advancement than those free persons classified as "black" between 1830 and 1860?   Did males enjoy greater opportunities than females?

2.   In what respects, if any, did discrimination against and/or legal restrictions placed on African Americans in the South increase after the Nat Turner Rebellion?   In what respects, if any, did discrimination against and/or legal restrictions placed on African Americans in the South increase during the decade of the 1850s?

3.   Simulate the experience of an individual or family listed in both The 1860 Census for Augusta County and the Register of Free Blacks, Augusta County, Virginia in a manner which embodies your understanding of either of the historical issues listed above.   If the individual or family in which you are interested is listed in the Register of Free Negroes and Mulattoes in the Corporation of Staunton, you may use the information from that collection in addition to or instead of the Register of Free Blacks, Augusta County, Virginia.

III.   Additional Sources You May Wish to Consult

A.   Web Sites

           The following Web sites contain additional data which may assist you in constructing your own historical account:

           1)   The Statistical Tables compiled by the authors of The Valley of the Shadow

           2)   Data from one or more of the other decennial censuses taken between 1790 and 1860 which can be accessed from United States Historical Census Data Browser

           3)   The 1860 Census for Franklin County if you find it helpful to compare free African Americans in the North with those living in the South.

B.   Printed Sources

           Standard print sources which may help you better understand the historical context for the account you are attempting to construct include:

1)   Ira Berlin, Slaves Without Masters:  The Free Negro in the Antebellum South.    New York: Pantheon Books, 1974

2)   Mary Frances Berry and John W. Blassingame, Long Memory.   The Black Experience in America.    New York:  Oxford University Press, 1982 (Chapter 2: "An Unsecure People: Free Negroes in America").

3)   Tommy L. Bogger, Free Blacks in Norfolk, Virginia, 1790-1860.   Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997.

4)   Leonard Curry, The Free Black in Urban America, 1800-1850: The Shadow of the Dream. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

5)   Philip S. Foner, editor, The Voice of Black America. Major Speeches by Negroes in the United States 1797-1971. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972.

6)   Philip S. Foner and Ronald L. Lewis, editors, Black Workers. A Documentary History From Colonial Times to the Present .   Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989.

7)   June Purcell Guild, Black Laws of Virginia.   Lovettsville, Virginia: Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County, 1995.

8)   A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. and Greer C. Bosworth, "'Rather Than The Free': Free Blacks in Colonial and Antebellum Virginia," Harvard Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Law Review, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Winter, 1991), pp 17-66.

9)   James Horton, Free People of Color.    Inside the African American Community.    Washington, D.C.:  Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993.

10)   Suzanne Lebsock, The Free Women of Petersburg.   Status and Culture in a Southern Town, 1784-1860.    New York:  W.W. Norton, 1984   (Chapter 4: "Free Women of Color").

11)   Leon F. Litwack, North of Slavery. The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860.   Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.

12)   John H. Russell, The Free Negro in Virginia 1619-1865. New York: Dover Publications, 1969 [1913].

13)   Donald R. Wright, African Americans in the Early Republic 1789-1831. Arlington Heights, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, 1993.

IV.   Criteria Which Will Be Used in Evaluating Your Paper

A.   The primary criteria which will be used in evaluating your paper will be the clarity of your analytical focus, coherence, and your use of evidence drawn from the Registers of Free Blacks and/or the 1860 census.   If you elect to present your account in the form of a simulation, your creativity in framing the account will be given equal weight with the other three criteria specified above.

B.   It is important that your paper reflect the fact that you have asked good questions of the data contained in the Register of Free Blacks and/or the 1860 census.   It is NOT necessary for you to have reached firm, indisputable conclusions based on this data.

C.   Your paper should reflect your effort to analyze change through time.

D.   Your paper should reflect an awareness that the Registers of Free Blacks and the 1860 census are records created by whites to serve their needs.   They are not the creation of and, therefore, do not reflect the thinking of free African Americans.   You should make every effort to examine sources created by or informed by the perspective of African Americans in an effort to compensate for the built-in bias of these two collections of primary sources.

E.   You will receive extra credit for utilizing in a significant way any Web site or print source not listed on this assignment sheet.

F.   You will also receive extra credit if you write a "virtual paper" in hypertext similar to Matt Noonan's Web Site Evaluation "Paper" .