Write an essay examining Lincolns views on race and slavery. The essay should begin by using the debate between Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sean Wilentz as your argumentative frame. After establishing that frame, the essay should present a claim that intervenes in this debate in some way. Your claim should be reducible to one of three commonly made historical arguments. They are as follows:
An argument about selection. Example sentence: A writer or school of writers misses something about [fill in the blank] and it matters because [fill in the blank].
An argument about inference. Example sentence: A writer or school of writers misunderstands or mischaracterizes or misinterprets an action/event/idea, and it matters because [fill in the blank].
An argument about relative weight or importance. Example sentence: A writer or school of writers misunderstands or mischaracterizes the importance of [fill in the blank], and it matters because [fill in the blank].
Once you have made your claim, the body of the paper should use the documents in Lincoln on Race and Slavery to demonstrate and elaborate your central argument. It should follow the norms of historical argumentation, meaning that it should use historical narrative. Everything should be in chronological order and any deviations from chronology need to be acknowledged and explained. The essay should be in the past tense. It should follow Graff and Birkensteins suggestions for quoting and summarizing. You might also find it useful to follow their templates for laying out your argument. The essay should use footnotes in Chicago style, and you should supply quotations in order to prove your point and to make sure that you are fairly representing your sources.
Finally, the essay should culminate in a conclusion. You might use the conclusion to explain what is at stake in this disagreement. Why does it matter how we understand Lincolns views on race and slavery?
Remember that it is not your job to agree or to disagree with the primary sources. It is your job to agree or to disagree with secondary sourcesin this case with Wilentz and/or Gates. You should use the primary sources to make your argument. You are not, in other words, joining the debate in the past; you are joining the debate in the present about how we ought to understand the past.
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