Artifact Analysis Essay

Essay on Rhetorical Analysis of Artifact: The Ballot or the Bullet

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Rhetorical Analysis of Artifact: The Ballot or the Bullet

Speech Given by Malcolm X

I. Introduction: Though almost half a century has passed, the Civil Rights Movement remains one freshly imprinted in not only the history books of US schools but also in the minds of countless Americans. Albeit, American society has come quite a ways in the acceptance of the individual - regardless of sex, age, creed or ethnicity - prejudices of different sorts are still to be found throughout every one of the united states of America.

The Civil Rights Movement fought to overcome the racial inequalities inherent and ingrained in the minds of America's citizens and the government which they oversaw; it was…show more content…

It is a strong, unique argument and call to arms against any government which unjustly governs its law-abiding citizens.

II. Research Question: How does an individual, in this case - Malcolm X, incite a people to rise against their government, particularly through violent means?

III. Artifact Description: This speech, entitled "The Ballot or the Bullet", was given by Malcolm X; the speech itself was performed several times, however the analysis of this paper is based upon the delivery on 3, April 1964 in Cleveland, Ohio. Malcolm X gave the speech at Cory Methodist Church during a symposium sponsored by CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality.

"The Ballot or the Bullet" was one of many speeches which addressed a top issue in the United States at the time, that of civil rights. For a period of over twenty years, black Americans had actively been pursuing their civil liberties which they felt were being denied them.

Over this prolonged period of time, several events could be highlighted for their contribution to the progress of the movement. In 1942, CORE was founded and held its first session in Chicago. In 1946, President Truman created a civil rights committee which found racial discrimination to be a national problem, and shortly thereafter, the US Supreme Court banned segregation on interstate buses. Around 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. emerged

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Having followed the steps for analyzing artifacts and documents, you are ready to write history. This section encourages investigation into consumerism, one facet of American experience that is illuminated by the objects and documents in this publication. The first section shows how to generate questions that will shape inquiry into an object or a document; the second, how to create an interpretation of an object or document; and the third, how to write a theme-based historical essay. Some suggestions for writing effective essays conclude this section.

Why study consumerism?

Over the last century, the widespread acquisition of commodities has shaped much of American culture. Americans increasingly participated in the culture of consumption, transforming the economy from one based upon agriculture and raw materials to one that is driven by manufacturing, advertising, and selling mass-produced goods. One way to study this social transformation is through the products America manufactured. Many such things are on view at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. These objects can provide insights into the social history of American childhood and adolescence. More importantly, consumer objects shed light on a diverse group of Americans whose lives we encounter through the artifacts they touched.

The following classroom strategies use objects and documents to assess the historical and social aspects of consumerism, with a particular emphasis on the period between 1920 and 1970. You will find procedures for investigating and writing about artifacts and written documents. Since most of these objects have a familiar ring, we recommend starting by showing the class a reproduction of the object and having the students indicate what makes them curious about it; in other words, have the students focus on what questions they wish to have answered about the object.

Generating Questions from the Artifact or Object

Choose one of the objects in the collection. After having followed the steps listed in "Artifact Study," you should have some ideas that begin to identify the artifact and its function. You have created a preliminary description of the object.

Now proceed from this preliminary description of what you already know about the object to what remains unknown. Ask class members what they wish to find out about the object. These questions can determine the path of your analysis.

To help answer these questions, examine the artifacts' related documents or consult the secondary sources listed in the Selected Bibliography.

Formulating an Interpretation of the Artifact or Object

Building a good interpretation of an object involves scrutinizing it carefully then turning to related historical and literary sources. Therefore, have your students study the objects together with the documents provided to develop questions about one or several of these objects. Or, introduce generic themes for discussion such as:

  • how gender roles are shaped by consumer culture
  • how consumer objects define an individual's identity
  • how marketing strategies sell consumer goods
  • how consumer goods were used in the home
  • the relationship between work and consumption
  • values and beliefs Americans have associated with consumption
  • how consumption affects the environment
  • how Americans have used consumer goods to define their social status

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