Please see below an excellent example of a Primary Source Analysis paper produced by a

student at the College of Staten Island, and which should serve as a model for writing your own

final paper. The paper begins on page 2 of this document and ends on page 10 with a Works

Cited entry.


To provide some background information: the assignment asked students to complete a Primary

Source Analysis paper on the debate that animated black enslavement during the antebellum

period. Although your paper assignment instructs you to focus on the debate over armed

resistance, you should nevertheless approach the writing and research process similarly.


So, why does this example represent a model Primary Source Analysis Paper? Let’s focus on a

few things:


1) Notice that the student, as instructed, analyzed a minimum of four primary sources— two from the proslavery side of the debate (Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Stephens)

and two from the antislavery side of the debate (Charlotte Forten and Frederick

Douglass). Note as well that the student did not need more than four primary sources to

construct this analysis. As mentioned during the paper review, I strongly suggest you aim

for only four sources; or, limit your sources to six.


2) The student also, for the most part, withheld personal opinions and outlined the arguments from each primary source. This is extremely important because the goal of a

Primary Source Analysis paper is to do just that: focus exclusively on the content of the

primary sources. Present each argument and tell us what the author is doing or

trying to convey. Analyze and interpret the sources.


3) In analyzing and interpreting each primary source, the student also avoided long quotes. Instead, the student dedicated the bulk of the analysis to providing in their own words a

summary of the arguments.


4) As it relates to structure, and per the instructions, the student also dedicated an almost equal amount of space to exploring each side of the debate. After a brief introduction,

the student immediately began an analysis of the sources and ended with a brief

conclusion. In addition, the student provided a header with a name, the professor’s name,

course number, and a date; included page numbers at the top (you may place yours at the

bottom or in the center); and, of utmost importance, adhered to the 8 page minimum



5) Finally, the student included a Works Cited page and provided in-text citations. We will discuss formal citations at a later time, but this is one example of how you might cite

your sources.


I hope this example helps as you embark on writing the paper, and I look forward to reading

what you produce!




Your Name

Professor Williams

Course Name and Number


The Debate Over Slavery

One of the most spoken about topics in history is slavery. The white community has

always been viewed as superior, which gave them the ability to make some of the most

controversial decisions known to man. Hundreds of years ago, the white community decided that

they would benefit from a workforce that would take care of the hardest physical aspects of

every job, and they would do it by force. For numerous reasons, they found colored people to be

the best fit to take on these dreadful tasks. As a result to their work, the enslavers would gain

more products from their farms in less time, make more profit on their items, and not have to lift

a finger to do any of the work. Although there was a fair number of people in favor of these

processes, there were also many people who fought for the abolishment of these abusive acts.

Within “The American Yawp,” there are various primary source documents that express the

standpoint of people who concurred with slavery, and the perspectives of people who desired its


Thomas Jefferson was a supporter of the abolishment of slavery. As the third president of

the United States, the pressure was on him to make sure that he kept his country running

smoothly. A big determining factor of his progress and success, was how he was dealing with the

issue of slavery. In order to display the pure ignorance of those in favor of slavery, he created a

document known as, “Notes on the State of Virginia.” Within this document, the so called

“scientific evidence” that was used in an attempt to justify the actions of the white oppressors,

was exposed. Most of the information was opinion based and inaccurate, but it was utilized,




nonetheless. Although this document was made by a man who disagreed with slavery, its

purpose serves to illuminate the reality behind the mentalities of those in favor of it.

The document begins by portraying the extent to which appearance played a part in

determining what a person’s worth and role should be in society. The biggest physical difference

between the oppressed and the oppressor, was skin color. This was better known as scarfskin at

the time, which translates to the epidermis. It is obvious that the skin of an African American

was always going to be darker than that of the Caucasian’s. This is completely natural being that

their origins differ immensely. However, this natural difference shouldn’t be means to

distinguish who is and who isn’t deserving of equality. Unfortunately, the white community

thought otherwise. The document states, “Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the

expressions of every passion… preferable to that eternal monotony… that immoveable veil of

black which covers all the emotions of the other race?” (Jefferson, 1788). What Jefferson is

expressing in these lines, is that people viewed lighter skin as a symbol of beauty. The redness of

blood compared to the paleness of skin, was how people believed everyone should look. The

contrast of pink lips and blushing cheeks against the skin of a white person, made it easier to

view their facial expressions. This became a symbol of beauty. On the other hand, the dark skin

of black people made their faces seem emotionless. Being that the features of a black person

were a bit harder to distinguish compared to the features of a white person, they were viewed as

less than. Even though there shouldn’t be a correlation between physical beauty and one’s

worthiness of fair treatment, the white community made it so. The mere fact of the naturalness of

different skin tones, was reason enough to make colored people the targets of slavery. To be able

to justify actions of abuse against a race with opinions on their appearance, proves the immense

power the white community had.




Another justification for the black community being targeted for slavery, is their

secretions. The text states, “They secrete less by the kidneys, and more by the glands of the skin,

which gives them a very strong and disagreeable odor,” (Jefferson, 1788). What people wanted

to get across, was that black people sweat more than white people, causing them to become the

smellier race. Whether this is true or not, the scent of someone is something that can certainly be

managed. Also, the white community shouldn’t have been so easy to judge when they were

almost never put in a position similar to a black person. With the amount of strenuous physical

labor that was required of the slaves on the farms, they were bound to sweat more and urinate

less while in the presence of the southern heat. Regardless, one’s odor has little to do with their

deservingness of enslavement. Anyone who is put in the shoes of a slave would experience

excess sweat, this includes the white race. Overall, whites had the ability to discriminate without

a rational justification for enslavement that had to do with something other than part of their

natural characteristics.

Sleep was an additional factor when confirming why colored people should make up the

slave population. The text states, “A black, after hard labor through the day, will be induced by

the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the

first dawn of the morning,” (Jefferson, 1788). Now, it is a common fact that the working day of a

slave is lengthy. They usually worked from sunrise to sundown or longer. If allowed, the only

time they could spend time with their families, was at nighttime when they returned from work.

In the quote, Jefferson is expressing how enslavement led to little downtime for the black

community. This left them no option but to use their sleeping hours to do the things that they

enjoyed. Hence, if black people were given the same freedoms that a white person was given,

they most likely wouldn’t be such night owls. The white community was able to make such a




crucial decision about the lives of another race, based off of information that they got from a

non-controlled environment.

Alexander Stephens was a part of the issue of slavery as well. He believed in all of the

irrational justifications similar to the ones mentioned by Jefferson. This was because he was the

Vice President of the Confederacy. The Confederacy was made up of 13 states that decided to

secede from the Union for one of their opposing perspectives, the topic of slavery. Stephens

delivered a speech named, “Speech of A. H. Stephens.” This speech expressed his views on

slavery through topics such as religion and government.

Stephens used God to relate to the listeners of his speech. Within it, he explains that God

is the creator of all things, including man. He portrays this belief when he says, “For His own

purposes He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made “one star to differ from

another in glory,” (Stephens, 1861). Within this statement, Stephen is portraying God as the

highest power, a fact that not many people would object to. He believes that God made white

people to be the superior race, and black people to be their servants. Whether this is something

people believed or not, it was difficult for a religious person to disagree with God. This in turn

opened up people’s minds to a different perspective on slavery. Not only would allowing slavery,

be a positive thing, it would actually impress the highest power according to Stephens. His

influential talk included a relationship between loving God and despising the black community.

What better way to gain support, than to adhere to people’s religious beliefs?

Additionally, because of Stephens’ strong perspective on slavery, he claimed that the

government was faulty. In reality, any group of people who believed in the abolishment of

slavery, had to be prepared for an attack by him. Stephens states, “It was a sandy foundation, and

the idea of a Government built upon it-when the ‘storm came and the wind blew, it fell,’”




(Stephens, 1861). The sandy foundation that Stephens mentions, was actually the idea that all

races were born equal. As a member of the confederacy, this goes against everything he believes

in. This causes him to compare equality to a storm. This storm of belief is what Stephens feels

will ruin the government as a whole. This is where he comes in. He uses this metaphor to give

faith to the people that he will solve this problematic way of thinking.

To combat the ideas of people like Stephen’s, advocates in support of the abolishment of

slavery, wrote their own documents. One of these people included Charlotte Forten. Forten was

an activist and teacher who was born in Philadelphia in the year 1837. Her parents were African

American and very wealthy. This fact of her wealth and status within her community, surely did

not prevent Forten from experiencing discrimination from her fellow classmates in school. She

shares a story on the matter within a journal named, “The Journal of Charlotte L. Forten: Free

Negro in the Slave Era.” Forten also mentions the trial of Anthony Burns in this diary. Burns was

a fugitive who escaped from his enslaver and was caught shortly after. Forten’s goal of sharing

her perspective on the topics of discrimination, was to portray the wrongfulness of inequality in a

brighter light.

Forten composed a series of events in which she was discriminated against during her

school years. One of her journal entries in particular stated, “I have met girls in the

schoolroom[—]they have been thoroughly kind and cordial to me,—perhaps the next day met

them in the street—they feared to recognize me,” (Forten, 1855). This quote displays a failed

attempt from a few white girls to make Forten feel like an equal and accepted human being.

Although they showed Forten a bit of compassion, society’s norms prohibited the girls from

treating her in the same caring manner while she was on the streets or in the presence of other

people. To them, there was no other option. More than likely, there would be consequences for




any white person who was caught communicating pleasantly with a person of color. What this

story teaches, is that people aren’t meant to be evil towards a certain race. That is a characteristic

that is taught by family and the pressures of society. These can easily be halted if the effort was

put in.

Burns experienced discrimination on a different level. He was a man lucky enough to feel

“freedom” for two whole months, freedom from his enslaver. Of course, same as every other

colored person, he was not granted the complete freedom that the white community was able to

experience. This was indeed an issue, but his position was much better than it was when he was

enslaved. Unfortunately, his freedom was short lived when a cop caught him on the streets of

Massachusetts. During Burns’ trial, he was sentenced to additional time as a slave. This was

worse than the death penalty according to Forten. She states that Burns is a man “whom God has

created in his own image, from regaining that freedom with which, he, in common with every

human being, is endowed,” (Forten, 1855). What Forten is doing, is appealing to religious people

in order to make them view Burns as an equal human being. She mentions that the freedom he

obtained when he managed to escape from his enslaver, was something that he should continue

to experience because it is what God desires. According to Forten, God created every person to

live in a world where they are allowed fair treatment. Therefore, sending Burns back to a state of

bondage, is completely immoral and against God’s wishes. The cruelty that the government

manifests when dealing with a member of the black community, is an example of oppression that

shouldn’t be practiced by anyone, let alone the powers of the state.

Another person who was passionate about the abolishment of slavery, was Frederick

Douglass. Douglass was a slave from birth, causing him to become separated from his mother

and grandmother at an extremely young age. He grew up in Maryland where he attempted many




escapes from his enslaver. Eventually, Douglass made his way to freedom and became a

prominent activist. He delivered speeches to large crowds of people who shared the same beliefs

as him on the topic of slavery. One of the most memorable of speeches that Douglass delivered,

was called “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” Within this speech, Douglass explains what

Independence Day means to the black community.

Independence Day has been celebrated throughout America since 1776. Every fourth day

of July, families and friends join together to remember the day that the Declaration of

Independence was adopted. Jefferson’s main points in this document, were that all men were

created equal and that every human had the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

However, Douglass didn’t agree with Jefferson’s points. He states, “The rich inheritance of

justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not

by me,” (Douglass, 1852). In this part of Douglass’s speech, he doesn’t deny that all of those

privileges are marvelous. He calls those aspects a “rich inheritance” to prove just how lucky

most people are to be able to experience such advantages. As amazing as all of that sounds,

Douglass believes that all humans aren’t treated equally. The majority of people who were able

to celebrate feelings of freedom and justice, weren’t members of the colored community.

Discrimination and slavery were still very much a thing at the time. Due to this fact, Douglass

calls Jefferson’s bluff.

Specifically, Douglass attacks with three main points. Those points appear when he says,

“The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as

a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie,” (Douglass, 1852). Douglass knows that a

republican form of government should include representatives put into power in order to protect

the rights of everyone. This isn’t the case though. Justice, liberty, and independence are factors




that are removed from black lives on a daily basis by the evil racists and enslavers that continue

to roam the Earth. No part of the government during Douglass’s time, would take the word of a

black man over a white man, or thought it faulty to celebrate a day of independence when so

many colored people remain enslaved. In addition, Douglass refused to believe that there was

any humanity remaining in people who ignored the circumstances of oppression towards the

black community. To be so selfish as to forget about a huge portion of humankind for a whole

day, was disgraceful to Douglass. It was also completely contradicting to the Declaration of

Independence. Lastly, Douglass made it a point to oppose any Christian that celebrated

Independence Day. Every Christian is taught to love their neighbors, and not to judge others.

Still, most Christians were enslaving people for the mere pigmentation of their skin. If those

people are the ones claiming that they don’t judge others and have love for everyone, they are

lying. Overall, these three points from Douglass, conveyed just how little the Declaration of

Independence is applied to black people because of the continuous existence of slavery.

Slavery made a dent in history that can never be repaired. It damaged millions of lives

and separated thousands of families. Jefferson displayed the mindset of the white community that

tried to justify enslavement. This proved just how powerful the white race truly was when

dealing with decisions regarding the black community. Stephens added on to the misery of

colored people by supporting the act and attempting to encourage it through his speech. Luckily,

people like Douglass and Forten were able to alter the minds of many. Through depictions of

real-life experiences of themselves and the rest of the black community, they managed to

become a part of a change. The abolishment of slavery was a result of astonishing people like

them two. The four documents were exceptionally informative about the perspectives of people

for, and against slavery.




Works Cited

Douglass, Frederick. “Frederick Douglass, ‘What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?’” The

American Yawp Reader, 1852, www.americanyawp.com/reader/democracy-in-


Forten, Charlotte. “Charlotte Forten Complains of Racism in the North.” The American Yawp

Reader, 1855, www.americanyawp.com/reader/the-sectional-crisis/charlotte-forten-


Jefferson, Thomas. “Thomas Jefferson’s Racism.” The American Yawp Reader, 1788,



Stephens, Alexander. “Alexander Stephens on Slavery and the Confederate Constitution.” The

American Yawp Reader, 1861, www.americanyawp.com/reader/the-civil-war/alexander-