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HIST 11A-12A: Slavery and Unfreedom (Brillman/Gudgeirsson/Wigmore): Web Resources

Primary Sources on the Web

Primary Sources on the Web

Many primary sources have been digitized and made available on the web. You have to be careful, though, because often the source of the document is not provided.  You need to evaluate each web site carefully to determine if it is reliable.  In general, you can just add the words "primary sources" to your search to locate such documents on the web. The following sites are examples of what you can find on the web.

The Abolitin of the Slave Trade
Primary-source texts, images, and maps on every aspect of the slave trade and its abolition (from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library)

The Atlantic Slave Trade and Save Life in the Americas:  A Visual Record

In Motion:  The African-American Migration Experience
Primary source images, maps, and narratives on the transatlantic slave trade, runaway journeys, the US slave trade, African migration, and much more. 

Slaves and the Court 1740-1860
This Library of Congress collection comprises an assortment of trials and cases, reports, arguments, accounts, examinations of cases and decisions, proceedings, journals, and other works of historical importance.

From Slavery to Freedom:  the African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1822-1909 (from the Library of Congress)

American Slavery Debates in the Context of Atlantic Slavery 1770-1865

Haiti History Archive
Collection of primary sources on the Haitian Revolution and Toussaint Louverture translated in English by the volunteers of the  The Marxists Internet Archive (MIA,



Primary Sources for Contemporary Topics

If you are researching a contemporary topic such as human trafficking or free speech or mass incarceration, you will be able to find reports and documents from various organizations and think thanks that can be considered primary sources.  For example, several international organizations, like the United Nations or Human Rights Watch, publish reports on human trafficking.  You can find them easily through a Google search.  Below are some examples

Anti-Slavery Organization

2016 Global Reports on Trafficking in Persons (United Nations)

Trafficking in Persons Report (U.S. Dept of State)

Child Slavery Report (Anti-Slavery Organiztion)


Authority: Who wrote/created the content on this website/item? If it is a person, what is their expertise and/or education? If it is an organization, what is the expertise of the individuals who run the organization, and what is the purpose of the organization? Is there a link to more information about the organization, agency, company or institution? 

Objectivity: Is there an obvious bias on this website? Does this person/organization have an agenda? Are they trying to sell you a product or convince you of an idea?  If so, what is the product/idea, and how is the bias itself important to your research?

Currency: When was the information created? 

Relevance: Exactly what information on the website is relevant to your research needs? What is the purpose of the web page/item? (Is it supposed to be informative? entertaining? factual?) Who is the site’s / item's target audience? (adults, children, college students, etc.)?

Accuracy: Is the text well-written and grammatically correct? Are there any glaring factual or spelling errors? Does the text or infographic refer to one or more sources? Can you find the original sources and determine if the interpretation of them is accurate?

Presentation: Does the website have a professional look and feel? Did you find many "dead" links? Have some expired (which also speaks to Currency) or moved? (Don't assume that the linked sites are the best available, either. Be sure to ask the same questions of those sites!)