“My Life Is My Message.”        –Mahatma Gandhi


Biography is the account of a person’s life. As a narrative, it assumes the responsibility of explaining the period when a person lived as well as the places, the cultures, the organizations and the ideas that shaped an individual’s life. Furthermore, it examines how a person influenced family and community and, by contrast, how personal relationships influenced her or him or them. That person’s accomplishments as an actor or as a witness are important features of a biography.

 The assignment for Essay #2 is that you write a short biography of a person who lived and worked in the United States between 1618 and 1865, explaining how and why the message of the person’s life that you have selected provides testimony witnessing the injustices confronting workers of his or her or their historical period.


You may not select a famous leader but must describe a person who was a worker in a particular occupation, industry or social movement that gave meaning to work and workers’ destiny in history.

Answering this question means looking beyond what a person has said or not said about their life. The challenge is to examine the message that you discern in actions, decisions, what the person experienced and/or what the person suffered and/or tried to change.

However, in the framework of this question, the person selected has to come out being big. More important – and more within reach – is that the student find some charming meaning in the figure. The student may be asked, more flexibly, to consider that person’s struggle. For example: what forces did the selected person have to contend with, and how did this person then figure out what to do, for good or ill?


Step One: Due November 6th

Identify Subject for Biography

Write a paragraph explaining your Choice. Explain the person that you have chosen for the biographical essay. “What dilemma does your chosen figure present to your mind?” This step asks the student to: (1) Identify someone; (2) identify a person in a difficult position in history, and (3) say what the student thinks the predicament is. Then, how does the student think the selected person could be good for us to study, so we may think about workers in such a position?


Step Two: Due November 13th 

List of Biographical sources: 

Select and list three-to-five sources that you think speak to your figure’s predicament. Each source selected should clarify, or offer a new way of thinking about, your figure’s struggle. Don’t just use a source to confirm what you already think. For each source you choose, write a statement of exactly 35 words saying how this source stands to help you understand the chosen figure’s struggle. 


Step Three: Due November 20th 

Develop an Outline of a life: This will be a chart or timeline showing the events, labor issues, movements and/or personalities that influenced the subject of your biography.

Step Four: Due November 27th 

Submit the Rough Draft of your Biographical Essay.


Step Five: Due December 4th 

Submit the Final Draft of Biographical Essay.


Biographical Essay Requirements: The Five-Page Biographical Essay on the Life of a person who lived in the period from 1618 to 1865 must include the following:

  • Statement of the Message of the subject’s Life & Reason Why You Chose the person.
  • Movements or Persons that Influenced your Subject.
  • Labor Issue(s) that affected your subject.
  • Events that the subject witnessed.
  • Decisions or actions or ideas that best express the subject’s Message.
  • Conclusion stating why your subject is relevant today.
  • At least three different sources grounding your subject in the history of their time.
  • Works Cited.