History: The South since the Civil War



As you learned in lectures, the 1963 March on Washington was a protest “for jobs and freedom.” This project is meant to introduce you to the issues that the “March on Washington,” and the Civil Rights movement more generally, aimed to address.  The goal of this assignment is to analyze these primary sources in terms of their historical contexts, the historical periods covered in this class.



► Assignment: For this project, imagine you were seeking a job in the Dallas area in the period “since the Civil War.” Throughout the twentieth century, the most common way to find a job was to open a local newspaper to the Sunday classified ads, seek the “Help Wanted” classification, and find an ad for a job opening.  Then you would apply for the job (in person or by telephone), be interviewed, and perhaps be hired. There were no regulations on the process until 1) the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 established minimum wages and maximum hours (beyond which must count as overtime), and 2) federal laws of the Civil Rights era, especially the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, made certain forms of discrimination illegal.


For you, the assignment is to examine, analyze, and contextualize the “help wanted” ads in each of nine decades (nearly an entire century!).  HINT: the most and best ads usually appeared on Sundays.


► Step One – Access: Access the Dallas Morning News Historical Archive from the Library. I used to take the following steps to get there: From the library’s home page http://library.ttu.edu/, on the left side of the screen, I clicked on “Databases A-Z,” and then clicked on the “D.” The second entry was Dallas Morning News Historical Archive. From there I had to limit my search to the Dallas Morning News, and then find my way to browsing, not searching – and from there, usually to the last few pages of each newspaper issue. 


You may need to be connected to the university’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access library resources from off-campus. Some advice from a librarian may be helpful, but figuring out how to use the library to complete this assignment is still YOUR responsibility.

TAKE SOME TIME getting used to the system, just as writing proper footnotes takes time. Research can only occasionally be accomplished overnight.


► Step Two – Research: Find and examine the “classified ads” of the Dallas Morning News across the twentieth century (I saw no job ads in 1884 but definitely found them in 1904; you may find your starting point in an earlier year than that).  Select at least nine ads, one from each decade, and take a screen-shot of it.  Also write down the citation information so you can write correct references in your paper. There’s an example at the bottom of these instructions. There is also a rubric there, so you know the grading standards for this assignment.


In each case, look at the same time of year so seasonal variations don’t affect your findings.  In other words, if you look at classified ads in May 1904, then you should look in May 1914, 1924, 1934, 1944, 1954, 1964, 1974, and 1984 (this reduces seasonal distortion in the job market).


Find the ads for employment and keep track of who suits what jobs according to the newspaper ads. If you need to, consult a present-day issue of the Dallas Morning News, or any job-listing website, to understand the differences among job advertisements then and now.


NOTE: When you select and analyze ads, think about the different periods of “The South since the Civil War.” These are sketched as the units of the syllabus. These different periods mark significant historical changes, and should guide your analysis of how employment in Dallas changed over the twentieth century.


►Step Three – Report chronologically, and write an analysis of the jobs you see. Are specific jobs reserved for specific types of people? Which sorts of jobs can men do?  Women?  Different races and ethnicities?


►Step Four – Contextualize: How do these ads reflect the decade in which they appeared? Place your evidence within the context of different periods (e.g. World War I, Great Depression, Great Migration, Civil Rights – find the different periods as the names of different units on the syllabus! If this periodization is causing you difficulty, consult a basic US history textbook).


Then, consider the results of such specificity for the employer, the job-seeker, and the society as a whole. Many ads would be considered discriminatory today: why? What would be the benefits of such advertising practices, and what would be the negative results? Make sure you consider benefits as well as costs, and bad outcomes as well as benefits.


►Step Five – Revise: Write an introduction that tells the reader what you will argue, and conclude your paper with a re-statement of what you have found and claimed. You may wish to weave together your chronological and contextual analysis (parts 3 and 4 above).  Finally, revise your paper into a coherent whole, with a thesis to argue, evidence employed and cited to support that thesis. 


MAKE SURE YOUR PAPER HAS A TITLE that expresses what it is arguing.


► Citation Forms: Use the word-processing software to manage your citation form. If you

Alt+Insert, then select “Reference” and then “Footnote,” you will open a dialogue box that allows you to insert a footnote, or an endnote, as you prefer. Either is acceptable, but remember that notes are different from bibliographies, and must use the proper form that historians use to reference the materials to which they refer.


Example (adjust this to refer to the actual advertisement you are using):


“Wanted—Good cook with references,” classified ad, Dallas Morning News, July 12, 1906, p. 8.


This, inserted in a footnote or endnote, will adequately cite the second ad: