APUSH Unit 5 Thesis Writing Samples & Feedback

5 min readjanuary 2, 2021


Caleb Lagerwey

View the following practice Unit 5 LEQ prompt. Students were asked to practice writing a thesis statement that directly answers the prompt and includes a few categories for them to support with evidence (or documents) during their LEQ/DBQ body paragraphs.
The corresponding feedback is provided by Fiveable teacher Caleb Lagerwey. It is important to learn how other students responded to improve one's own thesis statements.

Practice LEQ prompt

Evaluate the extent to which the lives of African Americans changed in the United States from 1840 to 1880.

Student Sample Theses and Feedback

Practice Submission 1

In the period, 1840-1880, through the emancipation of the slaves in the Emancipation Proclamation, 13 Amendment, and the Civil War, the African-Americans were freed from slavery, however, due to efforts of the KKK, Jim Crow Laws, and the wage gap with the African Americans compared to white citizens, the African Americans’ lives were barely changed in the 19th Century.

Teacher Feedback

You clearly know a lot about this time period, but make sure that you’re saving some of your vocab evidence for your body paragraphs. You need evidence to support your thesis, and if you blow all your evidence within the thesis, it’s hard to support your argument with outside evidence later. Your thesis should thus be a bit broader: talk about emancipation as your counterargument, then mention “violent intimidation, segregations, and second-class economic status” instead of your “KKK, Jim Crow Laws, and the wage gap.” (The wage gap was probably fine since you’d mention Sharecropping in a body paragraph as evidence; I just thought I’d widen it a tad).

Practice Submission 2

From 1840, the lives of African Americans somewhat changed as politically, African Americans were freed from enslavement. However, through sharecropping and a crop-lien system, African Americans remained in poverty, were considered socially insubordinates, and economically, had little success.

Teacher Feedback

Nice work on most of your thesis. Make sure you’re saving your evidence for your body paragraphs, so try to avoid using “sharecropping” and “crop-lien system” and just talk about continued rural poverty. Other than that, your thesis made sense and would earn the point!

Practice Submission 3

Although the reconstruction period of the 1860-70’s that characterized the improvement of African American political rights, ultimately the consistencies in economic systems that prohibited slaves and freed African Americans from experiencing true agricultural freedom and the creation of black codes that prevented African Americans from developing a long term political voice defined the limitations that did not allow for a large amount of change in the lives of African Americans in the United States from 1840 to 1880.

Teacher Feedback

Your thesis would earn the point and was well done. Make sure you’re saving your evidence for your body paragraphs–if at all possible–so try to avoid using “black codes” and just talk about continued political discrimination. Other than that, your thesis made sense and would earn the point!

Practice Submission 4

In 1840, African Americans faced discrimination and if they were in the South, were subjected to slavery. By 1880, these situations did not improve much. While African Americans were emancipated and given the right to vote by 1880, African Americans’ lives, especially in the South, changed little, as people found new ways to enslave African Americans and deprive them of their rights by instituting sharecropping system that were essentially slavery by another name, and using methods such as literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses to deny their suffrage.

Teacher Feedback

Make sure you’re saving your evidence for your body paragraphs–if at all possible–so try to avoid using “literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses” or “Slaughterhouse Cases and the Black Codes” and just talk about continued political discrimination. Other than that, your thesis made sense and would earn the point! You want vocab during the Contextualization part of your introductory paragraph. Where you don’t want vocab is in your actual thesis, which is usually the last sentence or two of your intro paragraph. Your thesis needs to specifically answer the question, but it shouldn’t be so detailed that you cannot prove it later in body paragraphs with vocab, thus why you want to save the vocab for later. In your paragraph, for example, it seemed like you were already answering the question via a thesis–which was the prompt on this thread, so good job!–but your thesis listed a bunch of vocab that you should save for later body paragraphs. You actually did this really well with your counterclaim: you talked about emancipation and voting rights and NOT the 13th and 15th amendments, which you can later use to prove that counterclaim.  For the rest of your thesis, I’d suggest talking about categories to argue the same things: African Americans’ lives, especially in the South, changed little, as people found new ways to keep them in debt and stuck doing farm work for white people , and using a variety of political tactics and intimidation to deny them actual suffrage.

Practice Submission 5

Although the legal status of African Americans changed during 1840 to 1880 with the introduction of the Reconstruction Amendments, the lives of African Americans changed to a little extent because of persistent discrimination and rural poverty.

Teacher Feedback

That was a great thesis. Nice usage of categories such that you can support them later with specific evidence. Plus, you set yourself up for complexity!

Practice Submission 6

African-Americans have pretty much always, to some extent, been abused by their lighter-skinned counterparts. However, during the mid- to late-1800s, this mistreatment had the appearance of a bell curve. In this period, African-American life greatly improved during the Reconstruction Era, then dramatically worsened after the Compromise of 1877 due to many factors including a decrease in the influence of the Radical Republicans, the end of martial law in the South and the enfranchisement of Confederate veterans.

Teacher Feedback

Make sure that you’re not getting too specific during the thesis. Save evidence like “Radical Republicans” and the “Compromise of 1877” for later in your thesis. You want to use categories and then add direction or magnitude: talk about how AA gained and lost economic status on their agricultural farms even as they gained political rights and participation on a national level.

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