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Antiracism: A Resource Guide: Primary Sources

Questions to Consider

Why use primary sources?

Primary sources provide compelling, direct evidence of human activity. Students who encounter primary sources gain a unique perspective on the subject they are studying, and an opportunity to learn firsthand how primary sources are used for original research.  

Primary sources can also be challenging to use. The formats of primary sources may be unique and unfamiliar. They require critical analysis due to their creators’ intents and biases; the variety of contexts in which they have been created, preserved, and made accessible; and the gaps, absences, and silences that may exist in the materials. - Adapted from Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy

Primary Source Sets & Guides

Primary source sets contain a selection of high quality primary sources you can include, quote and cite in your college papers and projects.

While there are hundreds of source sets, research guides and online exhibits to choose from when you're seeking primary sources, we've listed just a small selection of the best.

Other Free Sources on the Internet

Courageous Voices

Featured Autobiographies

Examples of Primary Sources

Examples of primary sources:

  • Autobiographies and memoirs
  • Diaries, personal letters, and correspondence
  • Interviews, surveys, and fieldwork
  • Internet communications on email, blogs, listservs, and newsgroups
  • Photographs, drawings, and posters
  • Works of art and literature
  • Books, magazine and newspaper articles and ads published at the time
  • Public opinion polls
  • Speeches and oral histories
  • Original documents (birth certificates, property deeds, trial transcripts)
  • Research data, such as census statistics
  • Official and unofficial records of organizations and government agencies
  • Artifacts of all kinds, such as tools, coins, clothing, furniture, etc.
  • Audio recordings, DVDs, and video recordings
  • Government documents (reports, bills, proclamations, hearings, etc.)
  • Patents
  • Technical reports
  • Scientific journal articles reporting experimental research results