The Vietnam War shaped many communities. One community worth studying is the African American community, especially since this group of Americans served in high numbers in combat units. At the same time many African Americans fought in Vietnam, at home the struggle continued for civil rights, freedom, and justice. Given the central importance of the Vietnam War to the recent history of African Americans and civil rights, students are required to write a two to three page paper reflecting on either Spike Lee’s Da Five Bloods (Netflix 2020) OR a close-reading of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dissent against the Vietnam War OR a synthesis of two African American servicemen’s testimony. This assignment should be uploaded on our course website as a .doc or .docx by November 13.
Answer one or more of the questions from one of the following prompts. Pay attention, as well, to how the question or questions you’re working on link up with key course themes.
OPTION ONE: Da Five Bloods Prompt
How does Spike Lee present the long legacy of the African American experience in Vietnam in Da Five Bloods? In what ways do the artists in the film link the war with African American freedom struggles in the 1960s? What are the artists trying to say about the legacy of the war? Would you recommend this film to a friend who wanted to understand these issues?
OPTION TWO: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Vietnam War
Martin Luther King Jr towers in 20th century US history for his activism and ideas about justice. Conduct a close reading of Dr. King’s “Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam” (1967) in Vietnam and America. What motivated Dr. King to criticize the US war effort in Vietnam? What did Dr. King believe drove the US effort in Vietnam? What solution did Dr. King offer to change the course of the Vietnam War? What does his famous speech say about the stakes of the Vietnam War to activists in the late 1960s? Be sure to pay close attention to Dr. King’s argument, word choice, and organization.
OPTION THREE: African American Oral History
The Vietnam War changed many lives. Read Wayne Smith’s testimony in Patriots (362-366) and Reginald “Malik” Edwards’s testimony from Wallace Terry’s Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War By Black Veterans (1984). Why did these veterans decide to join the military? How did the Vietnam War change the way they looked at the United States and the world? What does their war experience tell us about the Vietnam War’s larger history? The Testimony from Reginald “Malik” Edwards can be found here: ExcerptfromWallaceTerryBloods.pdf.
Please note: Da Five Bloods, Mr. Smith and Mr. Edwards includes language and scenes that might be offensive to some viewers/readers.
Two to three page papers are due on one of these topics by November 13. Students may do outside research for this essay but it is not required. Everything you need to do this work is in our course lectures, materials, and the pdf with the assignment. Authors should include a title, name, and page numbers on the paper. The paper should be double spaced. It should be in 12 pt font, in either Times New Roman or Arial. The paper should be uploaded to our course website. Students should use either Chicago, MLA, or another main stream citation form.
How the Paper Will Be Assessed
THESIS: Easily identifiable thesis. The author answers one or more of the questions posed in one of the prompts. The thesis situates the analysis within key course themes and speaks to larger trends/issues in Vietnam War/modern American history and memory.
CLEAR ORGANIZATION: The argument flows in a logical order. The best papers would be easy to reverse outline. There are clear transitions.
REASONING AND EVIDENCE: The author uses relevant evidence from the film/speech/testimony and course sources. Each piece of the argument makes logical sense.
HISTORICAL GROUNDING: The student identifies key terms and concepts from course readings and material.
GRAMMAR/SPELLING/CITATIONS: The student has their name on the top of the paper. There are page numbers. The paper has a title. The paper follows all rules of established grammar. There are no problems with sentence construction. The student follows a consistent citation style.
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