Manifestos Assignment

For this assignment you will individually develop several manifestos that represent how the people who populate our readings wanted to make Oregon a better place. We will use the discussions in weeks 4 and 5 to develop and share ideas for this assignment. When you are done, you will submit the equivalent of 6-8 double-spaced typed pages divided up into several manifestos. Each manifesto may be short in length. You might, for example, encapsulate Pierce’s manifesto (or that of his wife’s) in ten brief sentences. At the conclusion of each manifesto, include a brief paragraph (150 words or so) describing how it reflects the course materials.
– identify problems
– describe the cause(s) of the problems
– rally readers to support a solution
The manifestos all together should reflect the materials assigned in the entire three-week unit. They should reflect the perspectives, even the words, of the Oregon change agents that inspire them, which might be individuals or groups. For example, one of your manifestos might reflect Walter Pierce’s perspectives while another might reflect that of conscientious objectors during WWII. Unlike most manifestos, these should include citations, which can be in Chicago or the style used in your discipline. Check out a sample manifesto I wrote using an article from the first week. Note that this is a single manifesto – you will be writing a few (perhaps 3-4 of this length) and you will include a 300-350 word reflection on all of the manifestos (see below), which is not included here.
In addition to your portfolio of manifestos (with the short explanatory paragraphs), you will submit an overarching statement of reflection similar to the curator’s statement of the last assignment that analyzes your portfolio in 300-350 words (not part of the 6-8 pages of the manifestos). What kind of Oregon did the people we read about want and why? In what ways do you think they were successful in meeting their goals? Where did their ideas about what made an ideal Oregon diverge or converge?
Feel free to illustrate your assignment and/or format it to better express the opinions of your historical figures. As with the exhibit assignment, you can share your in-progress work with me for feedback.
Resources: The Atlantic Magazine, “Manifestos: A Manifesto” (Links to an external site.) will give you some guidance on how to write a manifesto. The 1848 Declaration of Sentiments (Links to an external site.) provides a model manifesto. So does Status Rerum (Links to an external site.), a screed by two Pacific Northwest writers, H.L. Davis and James Stevens, who thought most of the literature that came out of the region was dreck. Finally, a contemporary example, Manifesto for a Fashion Revolution (Links to an external site.).
Make sure to check out the examples of “A” submissions from a previous class located in the module for this assignment.
Some clarifying details:
Student question: Are we supposed to write a manifesto as if we were the individual? From their perspective? Or a manifesto on the movement? A: You could do either – develop a manifesto for a single individual or for a group. You could also develop a set of manifestos that place Oregonians with very different ideas in conversation (see below).
Student question: If so, how are we supposed to use quotes from the material? If there should be citations, are we compiling our own summarization of the arguments with quotes found from the material? Or should we make an attempt to re-phrase the arguments in our own words to make the document more cohesive?
“Don’t you have any seats downstairs? ” “I’m sorry, we can’t seat your people there.” (Beatrice Morrow Cannady film)
A: Could be something like: “Segregation in housing and services should be illegal because it demeans all Oregonians.” By the way, you’ll see in Pearson’s article that a local accommodations law wasn’t passed in Oregon until 1953. Here is a terrific timeline related to it: (Links to an external site.)
“There were many instances where tainted milk got into the marketplace, children got very ill, and many children died from it” – the suffragists
Could be: “Women should have the right to vote as they are in the best position to protect the household and children from such things as unregulated milk production.”
Finally, I do not want to get any manifestos that allow bigoted or otherwise offensive ideas believed by Oregonians in the past to stand without some kind of response and I’m sure you don’t want to write any. As you know, historians work with offensive ideas and horrible events in all of our work. How we address the past – craft an interpretation of it – is at the core of our work. It is incumbent upon us to name and interpret past ideas, rhetoric, and action that shaped how people lived and how they understood their own lives, the blinders that they held and the breakthroughs that they made that shape our own world today. Doing so should guide us toward understanding how bigotry develops and comes to be “common sense,” and how it becomes systemic, leading to real material (wealth, health, citizenship, etc.) differences among people.
What does this mean for the manifestos? Instead of repeating what Governor Walter Pierce or Portland Mayor Earl Riley (referenced in Pearson,” A Menace to the Neighborhood”) believed as part of a manifesto, place the statement in historical context, editorialize by adding your own response, and/or have someone else from the past respond to it. You are welcome to do this in creative ways that deviate from the standard format of a classic manifesto. For example, you could have one group of people respond to the manifesto of another group or individual, perhaps placing statements adjacent to one another so that it’s visually clear that a comparison is being struck. You may retool a manifesto by adding additional information that contextualizes or responds to it. My favorite example of this kind of work comes from the Five Oaks Museum in Washington County where curator Steph Littlebird Fogel took a red sharpie to an older exhibit on Kalapuyan Indians and revised it in place (check out this decolonizing of a local museum here: (Links to an external site.)). Similarly, you could revise direct quotations that you use in your manifestos to represent what you think would make Oregon better.
An Alternative:
Instead of writing manifestos, you can design a roundtable: Identify several historic figures highlighted in the readings/films for this unit and figuratively bring them together for a discussion that you develop about how to make a better Oregon. Your job will be to accurately reflect their views, as based in the course materials, and place them in conversation with one another. What kind of conversation would it be? Who would dominate? What would they say to one another (feel free to curate direct quotes from the materials, making sure to include citations). You get to decide where and under what circumstances this conversation takes place, who is in the audience and how they react, and who, if anyone, acts as MC. Since this is an invented premise, you can hold the event in the period under study or in another of your choosing (i.e., the present, the future, the 1980s). Please submit a transcriipt of this conversation that is the equivalent of approximately 8 double-spaced pages. Include a separate written statement of 250-300 words that explains how you approached the assignment.