Oliver Whelan

Hi, my name is Oliver Whelan, and I am a freshman at Emory University. Coming into this year, I was aware that I was not the strongest writer, as essays would typically take me a long time to arrange and write. The two areas of my writing that were weak at the beginning of the year were analysis and the known-new chain. Through in class writing and more careful attention to the structure of my writing, however, I think I have improved as a writer throughout this semester, especially in these two areas. As I analyzed and studied more primary sources, I discovered that I began to pay keener attention to the political and social atmospheres of the time periods these sources were written or published. In turn, with more careful analysis, I found that I could bounce my ideas off of each other to create a more coherent and smoother flowing writing style; whereas my sentences used to have little flow from one to the next, the known-new chain allowed me to develop my writing in a clear progression. So, rather than having sentence progressions that were not as clear or connected as they could be, I used the known-new chain to tie my ideas together and to strengthen the progression of my sentences. As a result of my improvements in analysis and flow, I found that the amount of detail I provided also increased, most likely because my ability to analyze improved greatly. Through improvements in these two areas, I think my writing shows that I have become a more analytical writer, and that I am now able to create strong, coherent sentence progressions.



In the beginning of the year, my bibliography for the curated exhibit shows my rawness in terms of my analysis, as I analyzed each of my sources with very little depth. Instead of giving a clear and detailed analysis of the sources I was going to use for research on my exhibit, I gave a very brief and broad overview of each source, which would leave the reader with a general sense of each, but not a clear or specific sense. The following excerpt from my bibliography highlights my lack of analysis from earlier in the year,

This book informs its reader of the rise of the KKK beginning in 1915, forty years after it had been dissolved. It discusses recruitment and the general reestablishment of the KKK’s presence in America after 1915. Furthermore, it shows how the KKK expanded northwards and what gave lead to the popularity of the secret society.


This quote is extremely vague and does not give the reader much insight as to how the KKK recruited its members or how it was able to expand northward and gain popularity. I should have provided more analysis from the book, which would have allowed the reader to understand how I was going to use this source to support my argument, but the ambiguity here leaves the reader with no true sense of the significance of the source to my exhibit

Later in the year, however, I was able to expand on my analysis of primary and secondary sources in my exhibit. Because my exhibit revolved around texts and images from the peak of the KKK’s reign, I had to analyze each text and image to explain the importance and relevance of my sources to my overarching theme, which was: Blacks in the South endured a long and oppressive journey in order to obtain their deserved rights, and this exhibit traces the development of their relations with the Klan from the end of the Civil War through the Civil Rights Movement. My development in analysis can be see through the quote from this slide,


The KKK viewed black suffrage as a threat to whites’ political power, as the black population in the South was substantial enough that if their right to vote had not been inhibited by KKK threats, intimidation, and violence, they would have had considerable political leverage. Once KKK members and white supremacists entered local and state governments, however, they were able to legally prevent blacks from voting through legislation.

Regarding the picture in the slide of two white men holding a black man at gunpoint before he was about to vote, I show how the KKK was able to influence black voters, rather than just tell them that they did influence them. I analyze the picture to show that through violence and intimidation, the Klan was able to alter political outcomes by forcing blacks to vote for Klan members and Democrats, which practically eliminates their political power and puts the KKK in control.

Then, on the Narrative Essay, I further developed my analytical ability, as I put myself in the position of a viewer who was seeing the exhibit for the first time. In this way, I was able to critique and analyze my own exhibit from an unbiased perspective, as I state,

When I arrived at the exhibit, I approached the first slide, which was marked by a large red title that read, “KKK versus Blacks in the South: A Visual History of the Development of Race Relations from the Reconstruction Era through the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960’s”. The title started as a general statement, but the subtitle following the colon provided more specificity as to what the exhibit wanted to convey. Additionally, through the use of “versus”, I understood that the Ku Klux Klan and blacks were often at odds with each other, and that the exhibit would take me on a visual tour of how their relationship developed. In this way, I found this title captivating and informative, as it insinuates that there was tension between the two groups, while also explaining what the exhibit would depict.

Here, I show how each component of the opening slide was able to create an effective introduction for the viewer. My analysis has clearly developed, as I explain the importance of the large header and the effectiveness of the word “versus”, which shows that the KKK and blacks were often at odds with each other. Despite that my analysis was very rough and raw in the beginning of the year, I was able to strengthen my analysis through frequent practice and a better understanding of what it mean to truly analyze a source.

Known-New Chain

At the beginning of the year, I struggled with sentence flow, as my ideas in one sentence would hardly connect with my ideas in the next. As a result, my writing was very choppy and confused readers as to what theme or concept each paragraph pertained. Our constant writing exercises, however, helped me erase this problem by the end of the year, and now I feel confident that the flow of my sentences, ideas, and paragraphs can create coherent and strong projects and essays. My underdeveloped ability to connect sentences and ideas can be seen in the following excerpt from my Proposal Objective,

The recent deaths of many black men due to police brutality are consequences of a nation that has long been racist and discriminatory to people of color. Those who believe that these deaths have not stemmed from intrinsic racism in the United States are overlooking the history of race in this country. Although the KKK certainly did not start racism and the notion of white supremacy in the United States, it did propel and perpetuate the belief that people of color were subordinate and inferior to whites. In this way, it is important to understand the post-abolition social and racial conflicts in the south that led to strong black activism during the mid-20th century. Yusef Iman’s Praise the Lord, but Pass the Ammunition, published soon after the Civil Rights Act was signed, shows the relations between blacks and whites, specifically the KKK, but also most whites at the time, during the early 20th century in an attempt to reveal the mistreatment and oppression of blacks to unaware audiences.


While I feel that the content in this draft of my Proposal Objective is strong, I think that the way in which I convey and relate ideas is particularly weak. My transitions between ideas do not flow very well, as I move too quickly from one idea to the next, which, in turn, limits the strength of the essay. There is a clear improvement in my use of the known-new chain, however, in my Curated Exhibit, and I think the following excerpt exemplifies my growth well,

For an entire century, the KKK had heavy influence on social and political affairs. Most of their success, however, stemmed from their willingness to use intimidation and violence against blacks in the South to prevent them from voting. Although Congress did pass Enforcement Acts in 1870 and 1871 that prohibited KKK violence and intimidation so that blacks could vote for the politicians they wanted in office, these laws were not strictly enforced, which allowed for the growth of the Klan’s political power in the late 19th century. There was little that blacks could do for themselves in response to KKK violence, as white southerners had more social and political power than blacks and did not want to accept the change in social order that resulted from the abolition of slavery.


This excerpt from the conclusion of my Exhibit shows significant improvement and use of the known-new chain, as each idea is related to the one that proceeds it and the one follows it. I think the factor that I improved upon the most was my use of transition words to tie each idea to the next, which is vital to correctly use the known-new chain. Finally, in my Narrative Essay, I think I show that I have grasped the full concept of the known-new chain,

Next, the exhibit explores black retaliation to the KKK, proposing the question in the slide’s title, “Violent Retaliation or Peaceful Protest?” Although this slide does not have an image, it compares how Luke, a black character in Iman’s play who is the embodiment of violent retaliation against the KKK, responds to KKK violence in the play versus how blacks responded to KKK violence in reality. The comparison reveals that Luke’s desire to retaliate against the KKK with violence was an unrealistic method of retaliation, as KKK influence was widespread and blacks were largely still associated with low social standing, meaning that violent retaliation from blacks would not resonate with the general public.


This excerpt summarizes my development with the known-new chain, as each idea bounces off the next, creating a nice flow that shows significant improvement compared to my Proposal Objective from the beginning of the year. I have discovered now, that by relating each idea, you can strengthen your argument and make it more coherent for the reader/viewer. Although my understanding of the known-new chain was limited at the beginning of the year, I think that my Curated Exhibit and Narrative Essay show my improvement in this area of writing, making me a stronger writer overall.

Featured Artifact


The featured artifact I chose to show my development in both analysis and the known-new chain was my Curated Exhibit. This project is perfect for revealing my growth in these two areas of writing because it incorporates a lot of analysis and my improvements in the known-new chain. With respect to analysis, the following excerpt highlights my analytical improvement,

In tandem with the Enforcement Acts passed in 1870 and 1871 that restricted the KKK from using intimidation and violence to prevent blacks from voting, the KKK experience gradual diffusion throughout the 1870’s. In the 1910’s, however, Klan fervor was rekindled by KKK literature and film. The article on the right, written in 1920 and printed Georgia’s Columbus Enquirer Sun, opens with a statement of the Klan’s growth since its revival in 1915, “Proof that the noble spirit that actuated the members of the famous Ku Klux Klan in the reconstruction period still lives among the sons is shown in the remarkable growth of the organization…” Through this, the Klan asserted their power, implying that they would reestablish their social and political power to reform the South.

This excerpt exemplifies my growth in analysis, as I analyze a newspaper article from 1920 on the revival of the Klan. Viewing primary sources from a perspective that accounts for the political and social atmosphere of the time used to be a difficult concept for me, but through this Exhibit, I think I have greatly strengthened my ability to read a primary source and choose the important information that I should focus on. Because I wanted to show that the Klan rose to power again in 1915, I chose this article, as it perfectly reflected the ideas I was trying to portray, thus, showing my improvement upon my analysis of primary sources.

Within the Exhibit, there is also great evidence of my development with the known-new chain, a concept I did not fully understand at the beginning of the year. Through constant writing, however, my understanding of and ability to use the known-new chain has greatly developed, and in turn, strengthened the quality of my writing. In the excerpt below, I show how the known-new chain creates an effective progression of ideas for my Exhibit,

Although Iman’s play depicts a black family retaliating against the KKK with violence, this rarely happened in reality. Even peaceful protests against the Klan were dangerous, as the Klan viewed them as threats to their widespread social and political power; as a result, it was almost impossible for blacks to publicly express their disdain and disapproval of the Klan. Consequently, blacks in the South endured a long and oppressive journey in order to obtain their deserved rights, and this exhibit traces the development of their relations with the Klan from the end of the Civil War through the Civil Rights Movement.

Here, I use the known-new chain to improve my transition and comparison of Iman’s play to reality. Flowing from each idea to the next allows the reader to better understand the connections, and also discrepancies, between Iman’s play and relations between the KKK and blacks in reality. Had I done this Exhibit earlier in the year, I doubt I would have been able to make these ideas flow like I did here. Rather, my ideas would have been jumbled, assorted, and disconnected, which would have made for a weaker argument. In this way, the known-new chain helped me greatly in improving the flow and transitions of my ideas, allowing me to become a stronger writer.


Reflective Portfolio Letter: reflective-portfolio-letter