Lincoln Historic Site

Document Based Questions (DBQs)

Use the link below to download this DBQ:

Was Billy the Kid a White Hat or a Black Hat? DBQ

What is a DBQ anyway?

  • A DBQ, or Document Based Question, teaches middle school and high school students a series of steps to help them learn how to use primary source documents to write a persuasuve essay.  DBQs are becoming standard on Advanced Placement exams and the Collegiate Learning Assessment.
  • DBQs combine critical thinking, history, and English-writing skills, giving students experience in organizing a quantity of research and information into a cohesive, persuasive, and structurally sound essay.  
  • DBQs rely on actual historical documents and information, allowing students to think critically about a historical situation or character and analyze events in their time.  DBQs are thought to reduce textbook and teaching bias, since students are examining primary and secondary source documents for themselves, they are able to come to their own conclusions and thus become "the historian".

Was Billy the Kid a White Hat or a Black Hat? 

     In old, western movies, it was tradition to feature the "good guys" in white hats and the "bad guys" in black hats.  The essential question in this DBQ strives to answer the question about one of the most infamous characters in western legend.  Was Billy the Kid simply an orphaned teenager who was just trying to survive after wandering into a lawless town full of men motivated by greed?  Was he a Robin Hood character trying to take down the monopoly that had been oppressing  the Native New Mexican Hispanic community of Lincoln for years?  Or was he a dangerous outlaw with a disregard for life and a psychopathic drive to kill indiscriminately?