Erik Altenbernd Source Analysis Paper
I. General Info
Was John Brown a Terrorist?
Your paper should be double spaced and roughly five pages long. All papers should include your name, the name of the class, and the due date at the top left-hand corner. The title of your paper should be centered two lines below the due date.
A digital copy of your paper (a .pdf file) must be uploaded to Canvas.
Outside research is NOT a component of this assignment, so DO NOT incorporate outside sources into your essay.
A list of works cited is also NOT required for this assignment.
John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry: A Brief History with Documents
The American Yawp
“John Brown: America’s First Terrorist” by Paul Finkelman
You must incorporate—by way of direct quotations and parenthetical citations—a minimum of four primary sources from John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry.
You must also incorporate at least one quotation from a primary or secondary source in each paragraph of the essay, not including the conclusion. It is permissible—and, in some cases, probably necessary—to integrate more than one quotation in some paragraphs. In this case, be sure that the majority of such paragraphs are comprised of your words rather than quotations from your sources.
NOTE ABOUT PRIMARY SOURCES: The primary sources are the short excerpts of works by Brown and other historical actors found in Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 of John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry. The introduction to the book is a secondary source—a historical overview and portrait of John Brown written by the editor of the book, Jonathan Earle.
II. Organizing Your Paper
For this final paper, you will write a short paper that answers the question Was John Brown a Terrorist? To
do this, you must address the life of John Brown and the issues of slavery, abolitionism, and violence.
Your essay should include each of the following:
Coherent, structured, and well-organized writing at both the paragraph and sentence levels;
A clear argument (i.e. thesis statement)—laid out in the introductory paragraph(s)—that answers the
central question of the prompt and ncludes, or is tied to, a working definition of terrorism;
Description and analysis of Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, some of the major events that led Brown to
Harpers Ferry, and other relevant biographical information about Brown;
Contextual information regarding the abolitionist movement and the distinct role Brown played within
Quotations—with corresponding citations—from a minimum of four separate primary sources found
in the course textbook, John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry;
6. At least one quotation in each paragraph, not including the conclusion.
Grading: An A paper will illustrate all of the above requirements. A B paper will illustrate most of the above requirements. A C paper will illustrate some of the above requirements. A D paper will illustrate a lack of understanding of the topic and/or lack a majority of the above requirements. An F will be given to incomplete and/or off-topic essays.
As we discussed in class, to answer the question Was John Brown a terrorist? you’ll also need to answer two follow-up questions: Who was John Brown? And what is terrorism?
To answer all these questions, you’ll need to provide some historical context for Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. This will require providing some basic biographical information on Brown. Do NOT write a full, two- page biography of Brown. Instead focus on those aspects of Brown’s life (e.g. his participation in “Bleeding Kansas”) that best explain why he decided to organize the raid on Harpers Ferry. Your biographical account of Brown should focus on contextualizing Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry and explaining why Brown came to believe that violence was the only way to end slavery in the United States.
In other words, only include those pieces of biographical information that are most relevant to your analysis of Brown’s actions. Ask yourself this: Does this biographical info help explain Harpers Ferry or support my argument? If the answer is no, then remove it from your paper.
As for terrorism, don’t provide a textbook definition of terrorism. Do take the time to define the term ( here is the FBI’s definition of terrorism: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/terrorism/terrorism-definition) but take care to define the term in a way that helps you assess Brown’s use of violence in the name of abolitionism.
We all agree with Brown that slavery was a profoundly immoral and evil institution. We also all agree that Brown was on the right side of history. But was Brown right to advocate violence? Keep in mind that, in 1859, hundreds of thousands of Americans believed that slavery was just, warranted, and even necessary. How, then, could Brown be so sure of himself and his cause—so confident in his convictions regarding the evil of slavery—that he could condemn people to die in the name of abolitionism?
Again, rather than just focusing on strict definitions of terrorism, focus also on the underlying ethical issue at play—the advocacy and/or use of violence in the name of a political or religious cause.
Here are some additional questions you might want to consider:
▪ How should we interpret Brown’s actions at Harpers Ferry given the highly controversial nature of the
raid in Brown’s day?
History 111 Erik Altenbernd Source Analysis Paper I. General Info Was John Brown