Write a paper on your family history and relate it to major themes in the history of the United States
You are required to write a paper on your family history and relate it to major themes in the history of the United States during the period we study, such as wars, immigration, and other political, economic, and technological changes. In your paper, describe the experiences of your family and provide an analysis as to how they fit (or don’t fit) the general pattern of American history. Our aim is not a complete family tree or genealogy; you can focus on one family member’s experiences or on the most recent years of your family history if you want. It should be an exciting journey into our past heritage and present identity when placed in the broader context. We are, after all, what we have been and our family histories are the building blocks of national history.
Make the family history paper a quarter-long project by starting early. Read the texts and listen to the lectures for major topics that might apply to your family. At the same time begin to collect information about your family history by interviewing your parents, grandparents, and other relatives, giving careful thoughts to questions that might elicit valuable information from them. It’s usually best to follow a chronological order and start with simple questions, such as “When and where were you born? What was it like to grow up at that time? What technologies did you experience when you were little?” You can also list some major events and trends that occurred in your interviewee’s lifetime and ask about their experiences or how they reacted to them. You could inquire about the impact of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, 9/11, the election of 2008, immigration policy, racism, civil rights and women’s movements, and changing technology (such as automobiles and computers and the internet) on their lives. By the end of the interview, you could ask some general questions, such as “What’s your American dream? Do you think you have realized your American dream?” Also ask people you talk to about family letters, diaries, photos, journals, and even newspaper clippings they have that are related to your family.
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