Self presents each topic sentence in the active voice, with active verbs: in the lot.
And while two of the three sentences have abstract nouns (critique and campaign) as their subjects, they are connected closely enough to a group of people—the Black Panthers—that the reader has no doubt about whose story this is. The first sentence uses the verb “began,” signaling that he is moving to a new topic, or a new chapter in his story.
Note in particular that Self’s topic sentences do not include direct quotations; he saves those for the bodies of the paragraphs.
Historians only rarely use quotations in their topic sentences, since the topic sentences should present the scholar’s voice, not the sources’.
“While the Port thrives, Oakland stagnates,” read the headline in a special edition of in 1972.
“Its spiraling growth, which began a few years ago, has not brought about the same kind of increase in employment for Black and poor people in Oakland.” Indeed, the Port of Oakland had become the West Coast’s busiest and largest, doubling its annual income between 19.
26 (September 2000): 759-792, doi:10.1177/009614420002600603. (Since this is a page about topic sentences, not citation, I have deleted the footnote references.) Self’s overall thesis is that “black power as a political phenomenon was not primarily a response to the civil rights movement but a parallel development that sought to redistribute economic and political power within the increasingly divided metropolis without emphasizing integration.” In the following passage, Self offers evidence in the form of examples of actions by the Black Panther Party: The Panthers’ critique began with the physical destruction of West Oakland and moved, in an ever widening arc, to encompass the principal contradictions of the East Bay economy as a whole.
Using the publications of the Oakland Project, the University of California’s multiyear study of Oakland, the results of the federal government’s 701 housing survey, and various reports and research papers produced by the Survey Research Center (affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley), the documented for its readers the systematic demolition and redevelopment of West Oakland.
In all, the party argued, the Port’s operation was another example of the city’s “behind the scenes deals for millions of dollars, money that is never used to benefit us [Oakland citizens].” The party’s two-year campaign mixed its older anticolonial discourse with this new attention to local political and economic arrangements in Oakland.
The Panthers linked the Port’s growth, for instance, to the “imperialist war” in Vietnam, even likening Oakland to “other colonial cities of Asia or Africa: Shanghai, Singapore, Alexandria, and Hong Kong” because of the nearby army base and U. Naval Supply Center from which soldiers and materiel were shipped to Southeast Asia.