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Africana Studies Research Guide

Identifying a Primary Resource

Primary sources are the raw material upon which critical, analytic, and historic studies are based. These sources are the evidence left behind by participants or observers. Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to the truth of what actually happened during an historical event or time period.  They present original thinking, report a discovery, or share new information. (Note that the definition of a primary source may vary depending upon the discipline or context.)

Examples include:

  • Artifacts (e.g. coins, plant specimens, fossils, furniture, tools, clothing, all from the time under study)
  • Audio recordings (e.g. radio programs)
  • Diaries
  • Interviews (e.g., oral histories, telephone, e-mail)
  • Letters
  • Newspaper articles written at the time
  • Original Documents (i.e. birth certificate, will, marriage license, trial transcript)
  • Patents
  • Photographs
  • Proceedings of Meetings, conferences and symposia
  • Records of organizations, government agencies (e.g. annual report, treaty, constitution, government document)
  • Speeches
  • Survey Research (e.g., market surveys, public opinion polls)
  • Video recordings (e.g. television programs)
  • Works of art, architecture, literature, and music (e.g., paintings, sculptures, musical scores, buildings, novels, poems)

Primary Source Examples


Photographs

Postcards

 Manuscript Collections

Ephemera

Searching for Materials in the Library

The following list will help you locate primary source print materials on African American history:

Archival Collections Online

Archive Grid
ArchiveGrid connects you with primary source material held in archives, special collections, and manuscript collections around the world. You will find historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. ArchiveGrid also helps researchers contact archives to request information, arrange a visit, and order copies.

Archive Finder
Archive Finder is a current directory which describes over 220,000 collections of primary source material housed in thousands of repositories across the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

 

DPLA
The DPLA brings different viewpoints, experiences, and collections together in a single platform and portal, providing open and coherent access to our society’s digitized cultural heritage.

 

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