"Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get" 

                                                                                                        - Forrest Gump

While Forrest Gump and his momma (from whom he got the advice) are correct, you never know what life has in store for you...the one thing you can be sure of is that you will be working all semester on a research paper known only as "The Forrest Gump Research Project".


For those of you who have never seen the movie, Forrest Gump is a fictional character who accidently finds himself personally involved in most of the critical events in American History from the early 1950's to the early 1980's ( the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-War Movement, and the Watergate Scandal, to name a few).  In addition, he meets some of the most well know figures of the time:   Elvis Presley,John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and John Lennon.  And, if that wasn't impressive enough, he even participates on several well known teams of the era:  Bear Bryant's University of Alabama football team, as well as, the All American Table Tennis Team that  visited China.  Along the way, Forrest, encounters a variety of social, economic and political situations at home that brings both joy and sorrow to his life.

Flash forward to juniors, you are all required to do a research project in United States History.  Rather than do the basic research and report on a figure or event in history, we are going to use Forrest Gump's story as an example to bring history to life. 


Your job is to create and tell the story of your own fictional character.  Like Forrest Gump, your character must experience (and participate in)  a variety of social, economic and political events that have been influential in American history. Be creative! Have Fun!  Use the information you have acquired in  this class to create an amazing story!  You have the freedom to do whatever you want, however, there are a few requirements that must be included in your project.  They are:

  • Character's story must span a fifty year time period and expierence events, people and/ or ideas in all five decades.
  • Character's journey could logically happen in the given time period. 
  • Character is a contributor to or has been impacted by at least ONE dominant movement or event in the period
  • Character has experienced  or participated in at least ONE major political event or controversy.
  • Character has traveled to a minimum of FOUR geographic destinations, both RURAL and URBAN.

*  You may not change history or add anything to it.  Your character may influence events or ideas, they may participate in activities, but they cannot change what already is know fact.  For example, he/she cannot be President of the United States, they cannot be a member of the Constitutional Convention or invent the cottin gin.

Now, some of you may ask, "Campos, I thought this was a research project?  Where is the research?"  Good question. To help create this story, and provide historical fact you will need to base your story on real events, real people.  Thus, you will need other sources to assist you.  The textbook can be used as a reference, however,  you need to go deeper.  Find out information from people who lived during the time and make your own interpretations. So... 

  •  You must include research from  at least FIVE primary sources and TWO secondary sources in your story. 
  • You must document each source and put them both as endnotes/footnotes and on a works cited page.  You will also have to document sources you look at, but do not use in your story (works consulted).  In all cases, MLA Format will be used. 

Anything else?

*  This is a SEMESTER project and as such, you are expected to work on this throughout the entire semester. With all of the above requirements, you can imagine that this project could be quit lengthy and involved.  Thus, your research paper is required to be 10-20 pages.  Ten pages in the minimum required for credit.  This may seem like a lot, but as you will find, once you start telling a story, you may find it harder to stop at 20. 

  • Font must be no bigger than size 12 in a basic style (like New York Times).
  • Paper is double spaced and goes from top to bottom (no unusal spaces or indentations)
  • You must include at least three images  with captions (pictures, maps, drawings, etc.)
  • You must have a cover page, Works Cited Page and Works Consulted Page.

Some suggestions to start...

*  When creating your character:  determine sex (male of female?), determine race and nationality (are they native born or foreign born?), determine economic standing (rich, poor, or somewhere in between?), determine religion, is he/she educated?, etc.  All of these factors will determine how your character experiences events and reacts to various situations. 

*  What events do you want to be involved in for sure?  This will help with a timeline and where your character is in their life.

*  What do you enjoy doing?  Find a topic that you want to know about and do research in that area.  This thinking alone will make this project much more fun and enjoyable.