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HIST 11A-12A: Slavery and Unfreedom (Brillman/Gudgeirsson/Wigmore): Primary Sources

What is a primary source?

What Are Primary Sources:

"Primary sources are original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, documents produced by government agencies such as Congress or the Office of the President, photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons. These sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past, and when they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research."
(American Library Association, Reference and User Services, History Section)

Still not sure about the difference between primary and secondary sources? Watch this video:

Explore Primary Sources

A great way to start exploring primary sources related to slavery (including contemporary slavery) is through this database.  The library currently has a trial until May 15, so don't procrastinate!  It's a fantastic resource.  


Finding Primary Sources

Primary Sources in Oscar:

You can  use the library online catalog, OSCAR, to find  published primary sources or books including primary documents    If you are interesting in the writings of a specific individual, just do an author search.  If you are looking for primary sources on a specific topic, just enter your keywords and add one of the following words, depending on what you are looking for:  correspondence, papers, speeches, memoirs, personal narratives, documents, sources.  
For example: Haitian revolution and documents
                    Abolitionis* and sources

Here are some collection of primary sources you can find in OSCAR:

Black Abolitionists Papers

Milestone Documents in African American History:  Exploring the Essential Primary Sources
The first two volumes of this four-volume set includes analyses of primary source documents from 1619 to 1900.

Children of God's Fire:  A Documentary History of Slavery in Brasil

Databases and Collections of Primary Sources

Oxford African American Studies Center

Provides access to more than 7,500 articles focusing on African American history and culture.  The articles come from major reference sources and are written by leading scholars in the field.  Also includes primary sources, images, and maps.  After you do a search, click on the "Primary Sources" tab.

Black Studies Center
A fully cross searchable gateway to Black Studies including scholarly essays, recent periodicals, historical newspaper articles, images, and videos. 

Empire Online
A collection of primary documents on colonial history, politics, culture, and society. The type od documents includes letters, periodicals, exploration journals, government documents, travel writings, maps, exhibition catalogs, etc.  The collection is organized around five thematic sections introduced by scholars in the field.   Many documents related to slavery

Making of America
Digital library of primary sources in American social history primarily from the antebellum through the reconstruction period.  Includes books and journal articles.

Early American Imprints:
A collection of over 75,000 books, pamphlets and broadsides published in America from 1639 to 1819



Newspaper and Magazine Archives

The Times of London Digital Archives, 1789-2009

APS Periodicals Series
American Periodicals Series Online (APS Online) includes digitized images of the pages of American magazines and journals published from colonial days to the dawn of the 20th century. Titles range from Benjamin Franklin's General Magazine and America's first scientific journal, Medical Repository; popular magazines such as Vanity Fair and Ladies' Home Journal; regional and niche publications; and groundbreaking journals like The Dial, Puck, and McClure's.

Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers
Full text  articles for hundreds of 19th century U.S. newspapers.  The newspapers are captured from cover-to-cover, providing access to every article, advertisement and illustration.

Historical African American Newspaper Available Online
Digitized version of African American newspapers from the Antebellum and Civil War era (1800-1865) and the Reconstruction era (1865-1876)

KKK Newspapers - Hate in America:  The Rise and Fall of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s


Government Documents

Government Documents

Government publications are a rich source of primary documents.  Use this database to find congressional publications, bills, laws and regulations, hearings, and government reports.  


Here's an example of the kind of documents you can find in the database:

Domestic Human Trafficking: Legislations in the 114th Congress

Public Policy Research

Use this database to find public policy research and analysis from think tanks, university research programs, research organizations and publishers. Provides links to fulltext where available.