Building Knowledge

Reading Responses (4%, 200-500 words each)

You will complete 3 response papers focused on the assigned readings for each week. The goal for these assignments is to get you thinking about the material, making connections between readings and class discussions, raising insights and questions that come out of your engagement with the course. To your preference, each response can focus on one text, or place readings into conversation with each other. Each response should lay out the argument or main idea presented in the reading, consider the nature of the intervention it makes, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the piece, and offer at least two questions for class discussion. These response papers should be about 200-500 words and should be submitted to D2L by beginning of class. You should also have access to your response for class. Late response papers will not be accepted. Responses are graded P/F based on demonstration of thoughtfulness and engagement with the reading material. Note: you are encouraged to “double dip” your reading responses and oral presentations.

Oral Presentations (3@ 7% each, 21%)

Each student will be responsible for making three presentations (3 min-5 min):  First, you will write a presentation that addresses the day’s readings (prior to project 1). These presentations can be done collaboratively (3 minutes minimum per person, 5 minutes max per person) or individually (coordinated with the day’s presenters, 3-5 min).

Two presentations will focus on items from your research (after project 1). After selecting a presentation item (a found artifact or textual artifact from the reading), each presentation must (1) summarize and describe the selection; (2) analyze the selection and relate the item to other items, themes, and/or texts; and (3) interpret the item, ideally by preparing questions that provide subsequent discussion. These presentations can be done collaboratively (3 minutes minimum per person, 5 minutes max per person) or individually (coordinated with the day’s presenters, 3-5 min).  The presentations provide the opportunity for student-driven and student-centered discussion, add to the diversity of perspectives in the class, and ensure the chance for expertise to develop throughout the class’s participants. Please sign up in the first week of class for your oral presentations. Note: you are encouraged to “double dip” your reading responses and oral presentations. 

Weekly Archival Research (15%)

Beginning in the second week, you will be responsible for locating, identifying, and describing artifacts related to the Lives of Black Students at WCU (and beyond). Each week, we’ll devote Friday class time to archival research; your goal is to locate items of relevance, identify those items (using the methods provided by your course instructors); and describe those items accurately. 5 unique items required each week; 9 weeks of research, graded P/F based on demonstration of completeness and attention to detail with the archival material.


Short Project One & Two (30%, 2@15% each)

You will complete two short projects to account for your knowledge formation. These short projects should place into conversation items that you’ve located in your weekly research. These two projects can be connected but need not be.

Unit One Project will focus on the 1960s and 70s and use the methods and resources you gain in the first part of the course. This project will also measure your growing understanding of the relevant theory necessary for critical archival studies. 

Unit Two Project will focus on artifacts from 1871 (our institution’s founding date) through the 1950s (post WWII). This project will measure your growing understanding of critical race theory and practice, as well as your growing skill with digital archival work. 

Final Project (30%, 2500-3000 words or equivalent)

For the final project, your goal is to produce work rooted in original archival research you conduct. Your work here begins with a final project proposal. You should look to synthesize and build on work across the three units to formulate a public humanities artifact. You can construct a multimodal web-based exhibit, or you can produce a seminar paper. A multimodal project can be collaborative but need not be. A seminar paper must be single-authored. Your project should be informed by the theory and practice covered in the course, but it can take any direction that relates to archival representations of black experiences at WCU or in the region. The Final Project will occupy much of Unit 4, with separate timelines and rubrics for the proposal, an initial presentation, the submission of the digital archive exhibit, a final presentation, and the reflective theorized curator’s statement.

All formal and informal writing for this course is eligible for you to include in your ePortfolio. And exemplary projects will be entered in the English Department’s Best Seminar Paper Competition. We will notify you of our decision before making the entry. If you do not want your work submitted for consideration, we will respect your wishes.

Grading Breakdown


Weekly Research: 15%

Response Papers: 4%

Oral Presentations (3): 21%

Short Projects (2) 30%

Final Project: 30%

Total:       100%

90-100 ExcellentA, A-
80-89 GoodB-, B, B+
70-79 FairC-, C, C+
60-69 PoorD
0-59 FailureF


“A” grades connote excellent work that presents original thinking or insight that is clearly, correctly, and gracefully written. “B” grades connote good work that fully satisfies an assignment’s expectations with clear competence, though the level of sophistication of thought and writing of an “A” is absent; the work is well written in terms of argument, mechanics, support, and structure. “C” grades connote fair work that minimally meets an assignment’s specifications and is generally correct in terms of mechanics and structure but lacks thorough analysis, elaboration, and/or mechanics. “D” grades connote poor work that is inadequate in at least one way, including failure to maintain focus, skimpy or illogical development, and significant writing errors in mechanics. “F” grades connote work that fails to respond acceptably to an assignment.