Primary sources are the best way to understand events in the past – through the journals, newspaper articles, letters, court case records, novels, artworks, music or autobiographies that people from that period left behind.
Each historian, including you, will approach a source with a different set of experiences and skills, and will therefore interpret the document differently.
In order to analyze a primary source you need information about two things: the document itself, and the era from which it comes. You can base your information about the time period on the readings you do in class and on lectures. On your own you need to think about the document itself.
Now you can evaluate the source as historical evidence.
Be selective – don’t expect to address every one of these questions in your presentation or paper!
Thanks to the history department at Carleton College for the framework for this document. apps.carleton.edu/curricular/history/resources/study/primary/
The WPA Slave Narratives Collection at the Library of Congress represents an ambitious effort to document the slave experience. More than one-third of the 2,300 first-person accounts were conducted during the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The section entitled “The Limitations of the Slave Narrative Collection: Race and Representativeness”contains a critique of the process used in gathering the data.
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