SAMPLE DOCUMENT-BASED QUESTION: THE RECONSTRUCTION
Here's a DBQ like the one that a third of a million students will be answering on the upcoming AP U.S. History exam. As you read it, remember that, during the actual AP exam, you'll have 15 minutes to read the material and 45 minutes to write your answer. The documents are original source material, so they contain some misspelling and bad grammar.
The question and source documents example
Directions: The following question requires you to construct a coherent essay that integrates your interpretation of Documents A through F and your knowledge of the period referred to in the question. Only essays that both cite key pieces of evidence from the documents and draw on outside knowledge of the period will earn high scores.
1 Discuss the experience of Reconstruction in the South following the Civil War. What factors influenced the lives of the people affected by Reconstruction in both the South and the North? How did Reconstruction change over time, and what motivated these changes?
Source: Letter from black Union soldiers
Genl We the soldiers of the 36 U.S.Col Regt Humbly petition to you to alter the Affairs at Roanoke Island. We have served in the US Army faithfully and don our duty to our Country, for which we thank God (that we had the opportunity) but at the same time our family's are suffering at Roanoke Island N.C.
1 When we were enlisted in the service we were prommised that our wifes and family's should receive rations from goverment. The rations for our wifes and family's have been (and are now cut down) to one half the regular ration. Consequently three or four days out of every ten days, thee have nothing to eat. at the same time our ration's are stolen from the ration house by Mr Streeter the Asst Supt at the Island (and others) and sold while our family's are suffering for some thing to eat.
2nd Mr Steeter the Asst Supt of Negro aff's at Roanoke Island is a througher Cooper head a man who says that he is no part of a Abolitionist. takes no care of the colored people and has no Simpathy with the colored people. A man who kicks our wives and children out of the ration house or commissary, he takes no notice of their actual suffering and sells the rations and allows it to be sold, and our family's suffer for something to eat.
Source: Andrew Johnson vetoing the Reconstruction Act of 1867
It is plain that the authority here given to the military officer amounts to absolute despotism. But to make it still more unendurable, the bill provides that it may be delegated to as many subordinates as he chooses to appoint, for it declares that he shall "punish or cause to be punished."
Such a power has not been wielded by any monarch in England for more than five hundred years. In all that time no people who speak the English language have borne such servitude. It reduces the whole population of the ten States — all persons, of every color, sex, and condition, and every stranger within their limits — to the most abject and degrading slavery. No master ever had a control so absolute
over the slaves as this bill gives to the military officers over both white and colored persons.
Source: Charles Sumner on the Impeachment Trial of Andrew Johnson, 1868
I would not in this judgment depart from that moderation which belongs to the occasion; but God forbid that, when called to deal with so great an offender, I should affect a coldness which I cannot feel. Slavery has been our worst enemy, assailing all, murdering our children, filling our homes with mourning, and darkening the land with tragedy; and now it rears its crest anew, with Andrew Johnson as its representative. Through him it assumes once more to rule the Republic and to impose its cruel law. The enormity of his conduct is aggravated by his bare faced treachery. He once declared himself the Moses of the colored race. Behold him now the Pharaoh. With such treachery in such a cause there can be no parley. Every sentiment, every conviction, every vow against slavery must now be directed against him. Pharaoh is at the bar of the Senate for judgment.
Source: Ulysses S. Grant's first inaugural address, 1869
The country having just emerged from a great rebellion, many questions will come before it for settlement in the next four years which preceding Administrations have never had to deal with. In meeting these it is desirable that they should be approached calmly, without prejudice, hate, or sectional pride, remembering that the greatest good to the greatest number is the object to be attained.
This requires security of person, property, and free religious and political opinion in every part of our common country, without regard to local prejudice. All laws to secure these ends will receive my best efforts for their enforcement.
Source: Blanche K. Bruce, Black Senator Temporarily Elected under Reconstruction, Speech in the Senate, 1876
The evidence in hand and accessible will show beyond peradventure that in many parts of the State corrupt and violent influences were brought to bear upon the registrars of voters, thus materially affecting the character of the voting or poll lists; upon the inspectors of election, prejudicially and unfairly thereby changing the number of votes cast; and, finally, threats and violence were practiced directly upon the masses of voters in such measures and strength as to produce grave apprehensions for their personal safety and as to deter them from the exercise of their political franchises.
It will not accord with the laws of nature or history to brand colored people a race of cowards. On more than one historic field, beginning in 1776 and coming down to this centennial year of the Republic, they have attested in blood their courage as well as a love of liberty — I ask Senators to believe that no consideration of fear or personal danger has kept us quiet and forbearing under the provocations and wrongs that have so sorely tried our souls. But feeling kindly toward our white fellow-citizens, appreciating the good purposes and politics of the better classes, and, above all, abhorring a war of races. we determined to wait until such time as an appeal to the good sense and justice of the American people could be made.
Source: Nat Crippens, black historian after Reconstruction, 1880-1965
Until the civil rights movement overturned systematic segregation, thousands of African Americans and other minorities were brutally maimed or killed by white vigilantes taking the law into their hands. Established law, which codified white supremacy, failed to protect the civil rights of black citizens. In the end, white segregation rested on open violence.
At the turn of the century, lynching's occurred every week, and most of the victims, denied the due process of courts, were innocent of the charges held against them. Some were not even accused of having committed a crime.