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Black Studies 103 - Brown: Primary Sources

This guide provides search strategies and recommended resources for research in Black Studies 103 with Jamece Brown.

About Primary Sources

Primary vs. Secondary Sources. Primary Sources (evidence of history and culture): Photographs, Movies, Plays, Works of art, Songs, Recipes, Letters, Diaries, Autobiographies, Memoirs, Oral histories, Speeches, Birth/death certificates, Land deeds, Government documents, Live news footage, Interviews (usually). Secondary Sources (interpretation of history and culture): Scholarly articles, Political analyses, Biographies, Textbooks, Reference books, Literary criticism, Reviews of art/movies/music (usually), News articles/broadcasts other than first-person accounts (usually)

Primary sources are first-person accounts or direct evidence of the topics or events you are researching. They may include letters, diaries, photographs, autobiographies, records such as birth certificates or land deeds, treaties and other government documents, news footage and eyewitness articles, plays, movies, music, works of art, speeches, interviews, oral histories, memoirs, architectural plans, and many other kinds of artifacts.

What About Newspapers?

Some sources may be considered primary or secondary, depending on how you use them. For example, a 1967 newspaper article about the Supreme Court's decision legalizing interracial marriage in all 50 states that year could be considered a secondary source, because the journalist writing the article did not write the Supreme Court decision himself. But if you are interested in how the decision was portrayed by the media during the civil rights movement, the same article could be considered a primary source as an historical artifact. Watch Newspapers - Primary Source? for more information.

Explore Specific Examples

For more information on different types of primary and secondary sources, review the presentation below, and remember: sometimes whether a source counts as primary or secondary depends on how you are using it. When in doubt, ask your professor, or a librarian.

Video: More About Primary Sources

The following video provides examples of primary sources, describes how to use them to draw conclusions, and discusses how to differentiate between primary and secondary sources (from off campus you will need to log in using your Pipeline username and password):

Finding Primary Sources Through OneSearch

Use OneSearch to find primary sources on a topic. Choose from the search terms listed below and add them to your search to explore what primary source material we have on your topic.



For more search options go to Advanced Search.

Suggested Search Terms

  • personal narratives
      Sample search: slavery and "personal narratives"
  • sources
      Sample search: music and sources
  • correspondence
      Sample search: "civil rights" and correspondence
  • diaries
  • charters
  • early works
  • interviews
  • manuscripts
  • oratory
  • pamphlets
  • speeches
  • letters
  • documents

Finding Primary Sources Through Library Databases

Some of the library databases include primary source materials. When you access these resources from off campus, you will be prompted to log in with your Pipeline username and password.

The following website, created by database company ProQuest, is freely available and will not require a Pipeline login: