Informative Research Essay Assignment

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Informative Research Essay Assignment

Write an Informative (also known as an Expository) Essay. The function of the informative/expository essay is to explain, or to acquaint your reader with a body of knowledge, you do not present your opinion, but “inform or educate the audience on a given topic” (The KU Handbook for Writer). By explaining a topic to the reader, you are demonstrating your own knowledge. You will be using The Writing Process – you have the handout in your folder. Your pre-write will be done as an OUTLINE – example below. You will do in-text citation within the essay – examples are below.

Your paper must be typed, MLA heading, Times New Roman font, 12 size type, and double-spaced, don’t forget your title.
Paper Topic:

a. You are going to research a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement. You may select a person from the list below. If you would like to research someone else, you must get permission from Mraz. You may not select James Baldwin.

b. Topic Choices:

1. Martin Luther King, Jr.

2. Malcolm X

a. The following items will be included as a part of your grade:

1. Research (20 points)

2. Outline (20 points)

3. Rough Draft (20 points)

4. Revision – done in one color on the rough draft (10 points)

5. Edit/Proofreading – done in a different color on the rough draft (10 points)

6. Peer editing (20 points)

7. Final Draft (112 points, graded on a 4-point rubric)

8. Bibliography/Word Cited (10 points)

Total possible points – 222

b. There will be spot checking and grading throughout this process – make sure you have items finished when they are due!

c. Grading Rubric and forms will be handed out
Parts of the Research Paper:

a. Introduction Paragraph

b. Body Paragraphs

c. Conclusion

d. Bibliography/Work Cited
Research Available and Requirements:

a. In this packet you will find several sources.

1. One primary source about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X

2. Two secondary sources about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X

3. Three or more web links with more information about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X

b. If you choose your own topic, you are responsible for finding ALL your own research.

c. You must find two (or more) additional sources about Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X.

d. The sources must be reliable and accurate.

e. You are required to use at least three sources:

1. You must use at least one or more of the attached sources, if your paper is about Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X

2. You must use at least one source that you find yourself.


  1. Introduction

    1. Background information

      1. James Baldwin was born in Harlem on August 2, 1924 and died from stomach cancer on November 30, 1987. (Solomon, par. 3).

      2. He is known for his writing, which dealt with issues of identity, race and sexuality.

      3. Baldwin is a unique figure in the Civil Rights Movement because he was not only African American, but also homosexual, so he faced many areas of discrimination.

    2. Importance

      1. Baldwin is a critical figure in the Civil Rights Movement because he has influenced generations of other writers, such as Toni Morrison, and because he is known as one of the most prolific and significant African American writers of the Civil Rights Era. (Turner, par. 2).

    3. Thesis statement

      1. The three major contributions of James Baldwin to the Civil Rights Movement are his essays Notes of a Native Son, Nobody Knows My Name, and The Fire Next Time. He wrote these three works when the Civil Rights Movement was at its peak. (The New York Times, par. 6).

  1. Body Paragraph #1: Notes of a Native Son

    1. Transition: Baldwin’s first published work was Notes of a Native Son.

    2. Main Idea #1: Notes of a Native Son is a collection of essays that James Baldwin wrote in 1955 that made important comments about race relations in America and Europe at the time.

    3. Supporting Detail #1: Notes of a Native Son criticized popular African American literature at the time, including Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Richard Wright’s Native Son. (Solomon, par. 4).

    4. Supporting Detail #2: According to Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the famous Harvard professor, “[His] essays articulated for the first time to white America what it meant to be American and a black American at the same time” (Powell, par. 6).

    5. Restate main idea: Therefore, Notes of a Native Son is a prominent work that directly commented on race relations at the time.

  1. Body Paragraph #2: Nobody Knows My Name

    1. Transition: Another major accomplishment of James Baldwin’s is his essay collection Nobody Knows My Name.

    2. Main Idea: Nobody Knows My Name explores relations between whites and blacks in a way that was especially important at this time in history.

    3. Supporting Detail #1: In their 1961 review of this book, The New York Times lauded this book of essays as “a splendid book,” and dedicated an entire article to its review (The New York Times, par. 27).

    4. Supporting Detail #2: Baldwin wrote these essays while he was living in Europe, and this gave him a certain credibility to white Americans (Hart, par. 5).

    5. Restate main idea: Thus, Baldwin’s essays Nobody Knows My Name mark James Baldwin’s entry into mainstream white American culture.

  1. Body Paragraph #3: The Fire Next Time

    1. Transition: Finally, his most important work and biggest contribution to the Civil Rights Movement is his essay collection The Fire Next Time.

    2. Main Idea: The Fire Next Time, a collection of essays James Baldwin wrote in 1963, is widely considered as one of the most important statements of the Civil Rights era by an African American.

    3. Supporting Detail #1: Baldwin’s essay “caused an immediate sensation” (Turner, par. 1).

    4. Supporting Detail #2: It was widely thought of as the most definitive statement ever written of African Americans’ struggle for equal rights (Powell, par. 2).

    5. Restate main idea: Thus, The Fire Next Time was not only popular, but also an important statement about the Civil Rights Movement.

  1. Conclusion

    1. Transition: In conclusion,

    2. Restate thesis: James Baldwin’s most important contributions to the Civil Rights Movement were his three collections of essays, Notes of a Native Son, Nobody Knows My Name, and The Fire Next Time.

    3. Importance of Main Idea 1: Notes of a Native Son established James Baldwin as a commentator on the importance of race at this time.

    4. Importance of Main Idea 2: Nobody Knows My Name opened white Americans up to the writing of James Baldwin, solidifying his place in American literature.

    5. Importance of Main Idea 3: Finally, The Fire Next Time was widely considered to be the most important statement about the Civil Rights Movement at the time.

    6. Significance for today: James Baldwin’s accomplishments are significant today because his opinions on race and racism are just as relevant today as they ever were.

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Primary Source: “Nonviolence and Racial Justice,” 1957
At age 28, the Rev. Martin Luther King was a recently minted PhD, a young father, and the face of the rising Civil Rights Movement. When he wrote this article explaining the credo of nonviolent resistance, he and the black community of Montgomery, Alabama had just ended their successful boycott of segregated city buses.
It is commonly observed that the crisis in race relations dominates the arena of American life. This crisis has been precipitated by two factors: the determined resistance of reactionary elements in the south to the Supreme Court's momentous decision outlawing segregation in the public schools, and the radical change in the Negro's evaluation of himself... Once he thought of himself as an inferior and patiently accepted injustice and exploitation. Those days are gone...
... the basic question which confronts the world's oppressed is: How is the struggle against the forces of injustice to be waged? There are two possible answers. One is resort to the all too prevalent method of physical violence and corroding hatred. The danger of this method is its futility. Violence solves no social problems; it merely creates new and more complicated ones...
Alternative to Violence

The alternative to violence is nonviolent resistance. This method was made famous in our generation by Mohandas K. Gandhi, who used it to free India from the domination of the British empire. Five points can be made concerning nonviolence as a method in bringing about better racial conditions.
First, this is not a method for cowards; it does resist. The nonviolent resister is just as strongly opposed to the evil against which he protests as is the person who uses violence. His method is passive or nonaggressive in the sense that he is not physically aggressive toward his opponent. But his mind and emotions are always active, constantly seeking to persuade the opponent that he is mistaken. This method is passive physically but strongly active spiritually...
A second point is that nonviolent resistance does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. The nonviolent resister must often express his protest through noncooperation or boycotts, but he realizes that noncooperation and boycotts are not ends themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent. The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.
A third characteristic of this method is that the attack is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who are caught in those forces. It is evil we are seeking to defeat, not the persons victimized by evil. Those of us who struggle against racial injustice must come to see that the basic tension is not between races...
A fourth point that must be brought out concerning nonviolent resistance is that it avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. In struggling for human dignity the oppressed people of the world must not allow themselves to become bitter or indulge in hate campaigns. To retaliate with hate and bitterness would do nothing but intensify the hate in the world. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can be done only by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives...
... it means understanding, redeeming good will for all men, an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. It is the love of God working in the lives of men. When we love on the agape level we love men not because we like them, not because their attitudes and ways appeal to us, but because God loves them. Here we rise to the position of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed he does.
Finally, the method of nonviolence is based on the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice. It is this deep faith in the future that causes the nonviolent resister to accept suffering without retaliation. He knows that in his struggle for justice he has cosmic companionship. This belief that God is on the side of truth and justice comes down to us from the long tradition of our Christian faith. There is something at the very center of our faith which reminds us that Good Friday may reign for a day, but ultimately it must give way to the triumphant beat of the Easter drums...

Citation: King, Jr, Dr. Martin Luther. "Nonviolence and Racial Justice." The Christian Century, February 6, 1957, pp. 165-167.

Secondary Source #1: Biography from Nobel Peace Prize site
Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was born Michael Luther King, Jr., but later had his name changed to Martin. His grandfather began the family's long tenure as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving from 1914 to 1931; his father has served from then until the present, and from 1960 until his death Martin Luther acted as co-pastor. Martin Luther attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of fifteen; he received the B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution of Atlanta from which both his father and grandfather had graduated. After three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class, he was awarded the B.D. in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955. In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual and artistic attainments. Two sons and two daughters were born into the family.
In 1954, Martin Luther King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, King was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation. He was ready, then, early in December, 1955, to accept the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States, the bus boycott described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation speech in honor of the laureate. The boycott lasted 382 days. On December 21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals. During these days of boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse, but at the same time he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank.
In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity; its operational techniques from Gandhi. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience. and inspiring his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, "l Have a Dream", he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure.
At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.
On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.

Citation: Haberman, Frederick W., ed. Nobel Lectures, Peace 1951-1970, , Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972.

Secondary Source #2: “Montgomery Bus Boycott” (1955 – 1956)
Sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks on 1 December 1955, the Montgomery bus boycott was a 13-month mass protest that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses is unconstitutional. The Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) coordinated the boycott, and its president, Martin Luther King, Jr., became a prominent civil rights leader as international attention focused on Montgomery. The bus boycott demonstrated the potential for nonviolent mass protest to successfully challenge racial segregation and served as an example for other southern campaigns that followed. In Stride Toward Freedom, King’s 1958 memoir of the boycott, he declared the real meaning of the Montgomery bus boycott to be the power of a growing self-respect to animate the struggle for civil rights.
The roots of the bus boycott began years before the arrest of Rosa Parks. The Women’s Political Council(WPC), a group of black professionals founded in 1946, had already turned their attention to Jim Crow practices on the Montgomery city buses. In a meeting with Mayor W. A. Gayle in March 1954, the council's members outlined the changes they sought for Montgomery’s bus system: no one standing over empty seats; a decree that black individuals not be made to pay at the front of the bus and enter from the rear; and a policy that would require buses to stop at every corner in black residential areas, as they did in white communities. When the meeting failed to produce any meaningful change, WPC president Jo Ann Robinson reiterated the council’s requests in a 21 May letter to Mayor Gayle, telling him, ‘‘there has been talk from twenty-five or more local organizations of planning a city-wide boycott of busses’’(‘‘A Letter from the Women’s Political Council’’).
A year after the WPC’s meeting with Mayor Gayle, a 15-year-old named Claudette Colvin was arrested for challenging segregation on a Montgomery bus. Seven months later, 18-year-old Mary Louise Smith was arrested for refusing to yield her seat to a white passenger. Neither arrest, however, mobilized Montgomery’s black community like that of Rosa Parks later that year.
King recalled in his memoir that ‘‘Mrs. Parks was ideal for the role assigned to her by history,’’ and because ‘‘her character was impeccable and her dedication deep-rooted’’ she was ‘‘one of the most respected people in the Negro community’’ (King, 44). Robinson and the WPC responded to Parks’ arrest by calling for a one-day protest of the city’s buses on 5 December 1955. Robinson prepared a series of leaflets at Alabama State College and organized groups to distribute them throughout the black community. Meanwhile, after securing bail for Parks with Clifford and Virginia Durr, E. D. Nixon, past leader of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), began to call local black leaders, including Ralph Abernathy and King, to organize a planning meeting. On 2 December, black ministers and leaders met at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and agreed to publicize the 5 December boycott. The planned protest received unexpected publicity in the weekend newspapers and in radio and television reports.
On 5 December, 90 percent of Montgomery’s black citizens stayed off the buses. That afternoon, the city’s ministers and leaders met to discuss the possibility of extending the boycott into a long-term campaign. During this meeting the MIA was formed, and King was elected president. Parks recalled: ‘‘The advantage of having Dr. King as president was that he was so new to Montgomery and to civil rights work that he hadn’t been there long enough to make any strong friends or enemies’’ (Parks, 136).
That evening, at a mass meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church, the MIA voted to continue the boycott. King spoke to several thousand people at the meeting: ‘‘I want it to be known that we’re going to work with grim and bold determination to gain justice on the buses in this city. And we are not wrong.… If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong’’ (Papers 3:73). After unsuccessful talks with city commissioners and bus company officials, on 8 December the MIA issued a formal list of demands: courteous treatment by bus operators; first-come, first-served seating for all, with blacks seating from the rear and whites from the front; and black bus operators on predominately black routes.
The demands were not met, and Montgomery’s black residents stayed off the buses through 1956, despite efforts by city officials and white citizens to defeat the boycott. After the city began to penalize black taxi drivers for aiding the boycotters, the MIA organized a carpool. Following the advice of T. J. Jemison, who had organized a carpool during a 1953 bus boycott in Baton Rouge, the MIA developed an intricate carpool system of about 300 cars. Robert Hughes and others from the Alabama Council for Human Relations organized meetings between the MIA and city officials, but no agreements were reached.
In early 1956, the homes of King and E. D. Nixon were bombed. King was able to calm the crowd that gathered at his home by declaring: ‘‘Be calm as I and my family are. We are not hurt and remember that if anything happens to me, there will be others to take my place’’ (Papers 3:115). City officials obtained injunctions against the boycott in February 1956, and indicted over 80 boycott leaders under a 1921 law prohibiting conspiracies that interfered with lawful business. King was tried and convicted on the charge and ordered to pay $500 or serve 386 days in jail in the case State of Alabama v. Martin Luther King, Jr. Despite this resistance, the boycott continued.
Although most of the publicity about the protest was centered on the actions of black ministers, women played crucial roles in the success of the boycott. Women such as Robinson, Johnnie Carr, and Irene West sustained the MIA committees and volunteer networks. Mary Fair Burks of the WPC also attributed the success of the boycott to ‘‘the nameless cooks and maids who walked endless miles for a year to bring about the breach in the walls of segregation’’ (Burks, ‘‘Trailblazers,’’ 82). In his memoir, King quotes an elderly woman who proclaimed that she had joined the boycott not for her own benefit but for the good of her children and grandchildren (King, 78).

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