Research as inquiry is your inquiry. What do you want to know about the readings, Hannah-Jones, and Wilentz?
One main thing is the difference between the two positions: Hannah-Jones says the U.S. was based on, founded on, racial inequality. Wilentz says that the abolition of slavery was not guaranteed, that it took a lot of conflict, effort, and circumstance that could not be predicted, yet it slavery was abolished.
You can start with a review of each article. Break down each article to 3-4 sections and summarize the main point of each.
What questions do you have that come from your reading of the two articles? Start a research group with another person or persons in the group, if you’d like. Do an open source web search on your questions.
I for instance wanted to know more about Frederick Douglass, and I found the text where he described his meeting with President Lincoln in order to discuss the recruiting of the African-American brigades in the Union army in the civil war. From there, I found about the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the Wikipedia article, and the film, Glory, form 1989.
This does connect back to Hannah-Jones; Douglass, who escaped enslavement himself, advocated and fought politically for abolition of slavery and racial equality.
But Douglass’ work to recruit African Americans into the war against the confederates also shows how unpredicted events made this necessary, and that it didn’t just happen on its own. This is an example of “relentless unforeseen.” In history, as in life, we improvise to achieve our goals. We don’t know what is going to happen in the future as a result of our actions. Yet we must push for our goals.
Lincoln was trying to win the war and preserve the country. Many people thought African-Americans would not be able to be effective fighting men against the confederates; many had escaped from enslavement in the south. But the war was not going well, and morale in the north was weakening, and Lincoln had a shortage of new “white” volunteers to join the U.S. army. Frederick Douglass was a emphatic voice for abolition of slavery and for African Americans to join the U.S. armed forces and fight the confederates.
This was the context of the 1863 war-time Emancipation Proclamation–see the wikipedia article. This created havoc in the south. At the same time, the African-American brigades went into action and defeated confederate forces.
Imagine the effect on the public. The idea of equality was advanced by these actions and events–that no one could have predicted earlier.