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ETHN 188: Seminar - Civil Rights & Anti-Colonial Movements (Hazard)

Course guide for ETHN 188 (spring 2023)

Primary Sources

source: Santiago Canyon College [Youtube video]  17 Oct. 2017. 


Primary sources are first-hand evidence related to the time or event you are investigating. This includes accounts by participants or observers and a wide range of written, physical, audio or visual materials created at the time or later by someone with direct experience

If a primary source is direct first-hand evidence, then a secondary source is second-hand commentary including anything that investigates, comments on, brings together, or reviews those primary sources and other secondary sources.




Primary Source Examples

Secondary Source Examples 


  • Letters 

  • Photographs

  • Diaries

  • History Books 

  • Journal Articles 

  • Documentaries 

Art & Literature

  • Novels

  • Paintings

  • Poems

  • Art criticism article

  • Literature criticism article

  • Art history textbook 


Communications & Journalism

  • Speeches

  • Investigative Journalism 

  • Newspapers / Magazines 

  • Journal articles on communication theories 

  • Book on journalism practices 

  • Public speaking manual 

Political Science 

  • Laws

  • Court Documents

  • Public opinion surveys 

  • Article by a legal scholar 

  • American government textbook 

  • Encyclopedia of Political theory 

Science and Social Science 

  • Research Studies

  • Lab Tests

  • Mental Health Surveys

  • Reviews of other studies 

  • Systematic reviews

  • Textbooks 


Newspapers & Magazines

The databases below are all ways to find magazine and newspaper articles that could constitute PRIMARY sources, depending on your specific topic, because they will lead you to articles published back into the 19th century in some cases. The first three listed are major African-American newspapers.

The databases below offer access to mostly PRIMARY sources in their focused subject areas.

Archives of Sexuality & Gender  The Archives of Sexuality & Gender provides a robust and significant collection of primary sources for the historical study of sex, sexuality, and gender. The Library subscribes to Module 1, LGBTQ History and Culture Since 1940, Part 1, a collection of primary sources on social, political, health, and legal issues impacting LGBTQ communities around the word), and Module 3, Sex and Sexuality 16th to 20th centuries, a collection of documents allowing scholars to examine how sexual norms and gender roles have changed over time.

Independent Voices  A four-year project to digitize over one million pages from the magazines, journals, newsletters, and newspapers of the alternative press archives of participating libraries spanning the 1960's to the 1980's. Starting with collections by feminists and the GI press, the collection will grow to include small literary magazines, underground newspapers, LGBT periodicals, the minority press (Latino, Black and Native American) and the extreme right-wing press.

Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers With digital facsimile images of both full pages and clipped articles for hundreds of 19th century U.S. newspapers and advanced searching capabilities, researchers will be able to research history in ways previously unavailable. For each issue, the newspaper is captured from cover-to-cover, providing access to every article, advertisement and illustration.

Student Activism Student Activism is an open access database of approximately 75,000 pages of primary source documents that capture the protest, advocacy, and political demonstration activities of American college students in the 20th and 21st centuries, ranging from the most conservative to the most radical.

Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media : digital archives / open access 



Searching Google Tips 


Primary sources can be located through a Google search by using phrases like   "primary sources" or the word archive or documents to a search:​

Barack Obama "primary sources"

Barack Obama documents

Barack Obama archives

The various museums and collections that comprise the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, and the Library of Congress have created some marvelous internet tools, exhibitions, collections and databases. A quick way to "get in" is to construct  search statements to use in a Google search following these three patterns:

your topic

your topic

your topic

These databases are useful for the secondary journal literature of history. Some of these articles, for example, primary sources could be reproduced. 


These databases could provide secondary as well as primary sources.