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Iconic Photo Assignment, AP U.S. History, Madsen/Herskind/Vaughn   Tags: historiography, mr. vaughn, ms. herskind, ms. madsen, photography, photojournalism  

Last Updated: Nov 28, 2012 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Library Assistance

We have several books about photographs, photojournalism, and analyses of iconic photos on the downstairs circulation desk, near the copy machine.  They may be used to help you select your photo, or in its analysis.  Since we have several classes doing this assignment, we ask that you photocopy the pages you need, being sure to get your bibliographic/citation information at the same time.  We may allow books to be checked out over a weekend, but they must be returned promptly!


Instructions and Timeline

A.P. U.S. Research Paper




Write a 6-9 page research paper about a significant event in American history that has been represented by a photograph or image.  The focus of your research and analysis should be on the way in which the photograph/image and event were depicted and described at the time versus the way historians have analyzed the photograph/image and event over time.


Part I: Choose an event and a photograph or image that depicts that event. Find a source that describes and/or analyzes the photograph or image you have chosen. The photograph or image and the source discussing your image are due Monday December 3.

·         The event must be a significant one in American history that occurred after 1850 and before you were born.

·         The photograph or image should be “iconic.” Consider the following description: “Iconic photographs are widely recognized as representations of significant historical events, activate strong emotional response, and are reproduced across a range of media, genre, and topics.”[1]

·         Some examples of photographs or images that would work well include:

o   Joe Rosenthal’s photograph of four men raising the flag at Iwo Jima.

o   Matthew Brady’s photograph of the dead at Antietam.

o   Joseph Keppler’s political cartoon “The Bosses of the Senate.”

o   Norman Rockwell’s “The Problem We All Live With” depicting Ruby Bridges, the first young black girl to attend an all white school in the South.

o   Eddie Adams’ photograph of a South Vietnamese Lt. Colonel summarily executing a Viet Cong commander during the Tet Offensive

·         An important part of the process of choosing your photograph or image is to find a reputable source that describes, and ideally even analyzes, the image you have chosen. Questions you should be able to answer: Who is the photographer or artist? When  and where was the image created?


Part II: Three annotated sources—due Friday December 14

In December, you will get a good start on the research paper process by finding and annotating three sources on your topic. For this step in the process, you will need to find and annotate three sources: a newspaper article published at the time of the event, a book written by an historian that addressed the event and an article written by an historian and published in a scholarly journal. See Part III below for a full list of sources required with some explanation.


An annotated bibliography summarizes the sources you have with a focus on how you will be using the sources to write your paper. The good news is that if your annotated bibliography is done well, you will have done much of the work you need to do to write your paper.

·         For the newspaper articles, give a 4-5 sentence summary of the article that focuses on how the event was described in the newspapers at the time. Be sure to state if the article is a news article, editorial, opinion piece, etc.

·         For the books, give a 4-5 sentence summary. The first one or two sentences should identify the author, type of book (biography, history), and the topic and perspective of the book. Then you should focus in on what the author(s) concludes or argues about your event.

·         For the articles, give a 4-5 sentence summary. The first one or two sentences should identify the author and the thesis of the article. Then you should focus on what the author(s) concludes or argues about your event.

·         Each source should be identified using Chicago Citation form. Attached you will find a list of some of the most common kinds of sources and how to cite these sources in a bibliography using Chicago Style.

·         Attach a copy of your newspaper article, a copy of the pages of the book you are using and the first page of each journal article to your annotated bibliography.

·         Attached is a sample annotated bibliography that includes an annotation for a newspaper article, a book and a journal article.

Part III: Complete Annotated Bibliography due with a copy of your sources--due date during second semester TBA

Your sources should include the following:

·         One source that describes and analyzes the photograph or image you have chosen.

·         At least three newspaper articles published at the time of the event

·         At least two books written by respected historians that address your event. Consider using histories or biographies. Also, a great source may discuss your topic in only 2-3 pages, but it may also give a great perspective on the event and how it fit into a large movement. For example, if you are researching the Cuban Missile Crisis, you might want to use a critical history of the Cold War that addresses the impact of the Cuban Missile Crisis in only a few pages. Indeed, this might be even better than a book that givens a detailed discussion of the events as they unfolded. Do not use encyclopedias. If you find a collection of articles and one addresses your topic, this article should be considered one of your three articles as described below.

·         At least two articles written by historians and published in historical journals. Again, you need not find articles that focus exclusively on your topic. Do not use book reviews.

·         Turn in your annotated bibliography (Chicago Style). Attach a copy of your newspaper articles, a copy of the pages of the book you are using and the first page of each journal article to your annotated bibliography.


Part IV: Outline of paper and two pages —due date TBA

Your outline should consist of a thesis statement that that states how a significant event in American history was reported at the time it occurred and how the event has been explained by historians over time. The outline should also include your topic sentences that develop this thesis. Both your thesis and your topic sentences should be complete sentences.

Include two pages of your paper. You can choose to write the first two pages or any other part of the paper that you want to write first.



Part V: Final paper—due date TBA

Your paper is due the moment you walk into class at the beginning of the period.

·         Title: Your paper should have a title on a title page. “The Cuban Missile Crisis” is an insufficient title. See the attached handout for sample titles.

·         Text: Use 12 point font and normal margins.

·         Footnotes or endnotes: Either one is fine. Just use your word processing system and indicate one or the other. Footnotes should be in a smaller font that your text.

·         Include the photograph you chose in your paper at some point.

·         Binding: Not necessary.

·         Bibliography or Works Cited: You must have one.




[1] Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites, “Performing Civic Identity: the Iconic Photograph of the Flag Raising on Iwo Jima,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 88, no. 4 (November 2002): 363.


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