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Primary Sources for African American History

Contemporary Primary Sources

Contemporary primary sources are easy to find. Everything from photographs and emails to social media posts and tweets are considered primary sources, along with more formal documents such as court or medical records. Here you will find a collection of primary sources related to the Black Lives Matter movement.

LibGuides And Collections


Black Lives Matter: Race, Policing, and Protest

Wellesley College

Section includes Primary Documents & News Sources; Racism, White Privilege, and Police Brutality; Info about Ferguson and Support for Ferguson; and Video Coverage.



Internet Archive: Black Lives Matter

The Internet Archive’s collection of videos, photos, audio clips, and other items related to Black Lives Matter.




The African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)

"These readings provide valuable information about the history of racial violence in this country and contextualize the history of race relations in South Carolina and the United States in general. They also offer insights on race, racial identities, global white supremacy and black resistance. All readings are arranged by date of publication. This list is not meant to be exhaustive–you will find omissions. Please check out the Charleston Syllabus book for additional reading suggestions."

See section entitled Selected Primary Sources.

Twitter is a Primary Source

Photographs Are Primary Sources


Photographs are an integral part of all modern protests and movements. Black Lives Matter and associated movements have benefitted from many powerful and iconic images. Some of these show the anger boiling up in the African American Community, others the strength, or the need for compassion, or unity. Here are just a few iconic images:



Follow this link to find photos and images related to Black Lives Matter, Courtesy of Getty Images


Photo Credit: Robert Cohen

Originally posted on Twitter by Post-Dispatch’s director of photography Lynden Steele on Aug. 12, 2014,12:49 AM, Central Time

Caption: Wow...A man picks up burning tear gas can and throws it back at police. #ferguson pic by @kodacohen @stltoday


Photo Credit: Blair Ryan Photography


Photo Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters


Photo Credit: Bruce Smith/Associated Press


Websites and Other Resources


Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter Global Network is a chapter-based, member-led organization whose mission is to build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.


Documenting Ferguson

Documenting Ferguson is a freely available resource that seeks to preserve and make accessible the digital media captured and created by community members following the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014.


Community-Based Approaches to Archives From the Black Lives Matter Movement

Yvonne Ng,

Article discusses participatory collection and archiving of community information, especially relating to the number of “archive initiatives [that] are emerging from the multifaceted Black Lives Matter movement.”

According to the article, “These participatory archive movements are especially valuable in communities that institutional archives have traditionally overlooked or misrepresented, and in communities where archives belonging to the state or other institutions have historically enabled discrimination and abuse.”

Court Documents Released in the Ferguson Case