Cause-and Effect Arguments

In my “Black Critics, Black Culture” class, a first-year writing course, my students and I discussed Vann Newkirk’s “King’s Death Gave Birth to Hip-Hop” as a compelling example of a cause-and-effect argument. First, we listened to three of the songs which Newkirk references: Outkast’s “Rosa Parks,” Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” and Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.” These three songs index the artistic, political, and cultural shifts from soul to hip-hop from 1968 to 1998. We then looked at how Newkirk supports his major claim–King’s death gave birth to hip-hip–with smaller claims, such as that “What hip-hop understands most viscerally is that it simply isn’t enough to be like King. King was assassinated for being King.” After presenting several pages of evidence, balancing summary, paraphrase, and direct quotation, Newkirk uses a strong transition to remind the reader of his larger argument: “With all these factors in position, black youth born during King’s time essentially saw the world unmade and refashioned in real time.” Finally, we discussed the issue of scope: Newkirk uses several pages of evidence to support his claims. He ends the essay by returning to the anecdote about the law suit between Outkast and Rosa Parks with which he began. Newkirk’s conclusion offers a foretaste of a new argument–that hip-hop is a “base for liberatory political movements and a wellspring of activism energy.” Students benefit from seeing how much evidence is needed to support a claim and how a conclusion can point to a related argument which one doesn’t have the space to convey.

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