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Generalizing From Multiple Sources
A generalization is a broad statement based on multiple examples or facts, often from various sources. Valid generalizations are
useful for summing up information. The illustration and the
quotation below relate to the experience of Africans being sold at
auction after arriving in the West Indies on slave ships. In the
excerpt from his autobiography, Olaudah Equiano described one
such experience, called a “scramble.”
This nineteenth-century engraving suggests
the humiliation Africans endured as they were
subjected to physical inspections before being
Use the following steps to make generalizations:
1. Learn the main ideas of each source. Consider both the information and the time period. Look at the illustration as a whole;
then study the details. Refer to the caption for more information.
2. List relevant facts. Determine which facts in the sources support each main idea. Note how the illustration conveys information and how it creates a mood or an emotion.
3. Find a common element. Look for general trends, or a common thread, in the ideas stated in the sources. Also look for
patterns or trends in the details and facts.
4. M a ke a generalization. “Add up” the facts and ideas in your
sources to make a general statement. Be sure that you can support your generalization with facts and that it is not too broad.
Valid generalizations often include words such as m a ny, most,
often, usually, some, f e w, andsometimes. Faulty generalizations
may include words such as all, none, always, n ev e r, and ev e ry.
Answer the following questions:
1. (a) What is the main idea of the excerpt? (b) What time period
does it cover? (c) What is the main idea of the illustration?
(d) What time period does the illustration refer to?
From The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah
Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, 1789
“We were conducted immediately to the merchant’s yard,
where we were all pent up together like so many sheep in a
fold without regard to sex or age . . . we were sold after their
usual manner, which is this: On a signal given, (as the beat
of a drum) the buyers rush at once into the yard where the
slaves are confined, and make choice of that parcel they
like best. The noise and clamor with which this is attended
and the eagerness visible in the countenances of the buyers
serve not a little to increase the apprehensions of the terrified Africans.”
2. (a) What main idea do both sources share? (b) How does the
illustration support the quotation and vice versa? In other
words, what is the benefit of having these two kinds of
3. What valid generalizations can you make about (a) slave
auctions, (b) the experience of Olaudah Equiano, and
(c) the experience of Africans?
Middle Passage