[Unit 5 Thesis Practice] African Americans during Period 5

Edited (4/4/20): prompts like this (a traditional long essay question [LEQ]) will not be on the 2020 APUSH exam without documents. The 2020 exam will be a 5-document modified DBQ. Thus, answering this prompt can be useful for reviewing content and thesis writing.

Practice your thesis-writing skills: write a thesis that directly answers the following prompt and that includes a few categories for you to support with evidence (or documents) during your LEQ/DBQ body paragraphs.

Evaluate the extent to which the lives of African Americans changed in the United States from 1840 to 1880.

In the period, 1840-1880, through the emancipation of the slaves in the Emancipation Proclamation, 13 Amendment, and the Civil War, the African-Americans were freed from slavery, however, due to efforts of the KKK, Jim Crow Laws, and the wage gap with the African Americans compared to white citizens, the African Americans’ lives were barely changed in the 19th Century.

From 1840, the lives of African Americans somewhat changed as politically, African Americans were freed from enslavement. However, through sharecropping and a crop-lien system, African Americans remained in poverty, were considered socially insubordinates, and economically, had little success.

1 Like

Although the reconstruction period of the 1860-70’s that characterized the improvement of African American political rights, ultimately the consistencies in economic systems that prohibited slaves and freed African Americans from experiencing true agricultural freedom and the creation of black codes that prevented African Americans from developing a long term political voice defined the limitations that did not allow for a large amount of change in the lives of African Americans in the United States from 1840 to 1880.


Jorge, you clearly know a lot about this time period, but make sure that you’re saving some of your vocab evidence for your body paragraphs. You need evidence to support your thesis, and if you blow all your evidence within the thesis, it’s hard to support your argument with outside evidence later. Your thesis should thus be a bit broader: talk about emancipation as your counterargument, then mention “violent intimidation, segregations, and second-class economic status” instead of your “KKK, Jim Crow Laws, and the wage gap.” (The wage gap was probably fine since you’d mention Sharecropping in a body paragraph as evidence; I just thought I’d widen it a tad).

1 Like

Studyagirl, nice work on most of your thesis. As I mentioned to Jorge above, make sure you’re saving your evidence for your body paragraphs, so try to avoid using “sharecropping” and “crop-lien system” and just talk about continued rural poverty. Other than that, your thesis made sense and would earn the point!

Perla, your thesis would earn the point and was well done. As I mentioned to others above, make sure you’re saving your evidence for your body paragraphs–if at all possible–so try to avoid using “black codes” and just talk about continued political discrimination. Other than that, your thesis made sense and would earn the point!

In 1840, African Americans faced discrimination and if they were in the South, were subjected to slavery. By 1880, these situations did not improve much. While African Americans were emancipated and given the right to vote by 1880, African Americans’ lives, especially in the South, changed little, as people found new ways to enslave African Americans and deprive them of their rights by instituting sharecropping system that were essentially slavery by another name, and using methods such as literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses to deny their suffrage.

In the period 1840 to 1880, African Americans’ lives changed profoundly in several important and symbolic ways, such as the abolition of slavery after the adoption of the 13th Amendment and the development of the Freedman’s Bureau. However, many the achievements of Reconstruction in bettering African Americans’ lives were rolled back due to the efforts of Roger Taney’s Supreme Court Slaughterhouse Cases and the Black Codes.

@andrew-song & @Caroline512150

Both of your theses would earn the point and were well done. As I mentioned to others above, make sure you’re saving your evidence for your body paragraphs–if at all possible–so try to avoid using “literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses” or “Slaughterhouse Cases and the Black Codes” and just talk about continued political discrimination. Other than that, your thesis made sense and would earn the point!

Could you elaborate more on the use of vocabulary? I always thought that we should use vocabulary at the start to set up the context to get the contextualization point.

@andrew-song Sure thing. So, you are correct that you want vocab during the Contextualization part of your introductory paragraph. Where you don’t want vocab is in your actual thesis, which is usually the last sentence or two of your intro paragraph. Your thesis needs to specifically answer the question, but it shouldn’t be so detailed that you cannot prove it later in body paragraphs with vocab, thus why you want to save the vocab for later.

In your paragraph, for example, it seemed like you were already answering the question via a thesis–which was the prompt on this thread, so good job!–but your thesis listed a bunch of vocab that you should save for later body paragraphs. You actually did this really well with your counterclaim: you talked about emancipation and voting rights and NOT the 13th and 15th amendments, which you can later use to prove that counterclaim. :slight_smile: For the rest of your thesis, I’d suggest talking about categories to argue the same things: African Americans’ lives, especially in the South, changed little, as people found new ways to keep them in debt and stuck doing farm work for white people , and using a variety of political tactics and intimidation to deny them actual suffrage.

Does that help?

Yes. I think so, so I essentially describe the vocab Instead of using the vocab in my thesis. That way, I can use it later in my body paragraph. Is that right?

Yes, that’s a good way to think about it. One more example: if you look at the College Board’s APUSH Course Outline, the statements in each section are (mostly) like thesis statements (see page 44+ and the “KC 1.1” etc), and the vocab can be added to prove each statement.

Although the lives of African Americans within the newly formed United States of America didn’t change after the American Revolution, many abolitionists-such as Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stove advocated for the rights of African Americans, and after the Civil War began, many African American men in the North fought in the Union army in hopes of freeing their brothers and sister in the slavery occupied South. Therefore, after the end of the Civil War, many African Americans were shown to live different lives than in 1840-1865.

Although the legal status of African Americans changed during 1840 to 1880 with the introduction of the Reconstruction Amendments, the lives of African Americans changed to a little extent because of persistent discrimination and rural poverty.

Although the aftermath of the unavoidable Civil War extended civil liberties to African-Americans during the 1860s, the Civil War failed to significantly change the lives of African-Americans, because of the compromised success of Southern reconstruction, replicated labor systems of slavery, and the continuity of shared belief in the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race.

From 1840 to 1880, the lives of African Americans didn’t change in the United States due to the facts that they were still racially discriminated, and weren’t given the same opportunities as whites.

Although slavery and racial discrimination was banned in the period from 1840-1880 with the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th 14th and 15th Amendments, because of restrictions through Jim Crow Laws and voting requirements, as well as the perpetuation of slavery through tenant farming, the civil liberties of African Americans remained restricted and their lives lives did not drastically change.

Although major legislation in the form of “Civil Rights Amendments” and the outlawing of slavery had opened new political and economic opportunities for African Americans during 1840-1880, the rise of Southern redeemers, vigilante groups, and failure of Reconstruction contributed the lives of many southern blacks returning to Antebellum times. Therefore, the newfound liberties of southern blacks were only short lived, as many found themselves in the same state of servitude to their white landowners through the exploitative system of sharecropping.

Fiveable Logo

2550 north lake drive
suite 2
milwaukee, wi 53211

✉️ help@fiveable.me


about for students for parents for teachers for schools & districts content team privacy contact


🥇 2020 Fiveable Olympics study plans upcoming events trivia hypertyper resources cram passes


community tiktok discord twitter instagram facebook careers

*ap® and advanced placement® are registered trademarks of the college board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

© fiveable 2020 | all rights reserved.