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Primary Sources for African American History

Goverment Created Primary Source Sets



Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936 to 1938


Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938 contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves.  These narratives were collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project (FWP) of the Works Progress Administration, later renamed Work Projects Administration (WPA).”



The Library of Congress American Memory: African American Odyssey

Eight collections from the Library of Congress include documents, pamphlets, ephemera, and audio interviews.


Other Primary Source Sets



The HistoryMakers

"Our mission is to Educate the world on the accomplishments of African Americans through video oral history interviews. The HistoryMakers was founded to address the lack of documentation and preservation of the African American historical record. Prior to the start of interviews in 2000, there was only one large-scale methodic attempt during the 20th century to capture African American history from a first-person perspective – the WPA Slave Narratives, housed at the Library of Congress. Nearly a century of African American achievements and struggles had gone undocumented at the time of our founding. 

"The HistoryMakers was born out of our founder’s dream to address this problem, by capturing – one person at a time – the untold personal stories of both well-known and unsung African Americans, and by creating a priceless video collection giving those involved their special place in history.  The testimonies captured in The HistoryMakers Collection – conducted in homes and offices across the United States and abroad – reveal the broad scope of narratives of African American men and women who have made significant contributions to American life, history, and culture during the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Many of these contributions have largely been untold and unrecorded; and, as a result, are still largely 'unknown'. They are 'America’s Missing Stories.'"




Black Past: African American History: Primary Documents

Collection of primary documents from 1724 (Louisiana's Code Noir) to 2009 (Supreme Court, Ricci vs. Stefano).


The Great Migration

Photographs and documents relating to the Great Migration (1910-1930).


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Photographs, documents, and objects that provide context for historical and thematic elements within Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird and the Scottsboro Boys trial on which the novel was largely based.

Colored Conventions Project

From 1830 until well after the Civil War, African Americans gathered across the United States and Canada to participate in political meetings held at the state and national levels. A cornerstone of Black organizing in the nineteenth century, these “Colored Conventions” brought Black men and women together in a decades-long campaign for civil and human rights.

This site features the hundreds of collected documents of the Colored Conventions movement, spanning from the 1830s through the 1890s.

Celebrating the Collections of Historically Black Colleges and Universities

University Created Primary Source Sets



USC Libraries Research Guides:

African American Studies Primary Sources

Sections include African American Primary Source Collections, Large Primary Source Databases & Collections, Slavery, Abolition & Race Relations, Statistics & Data, Civil War (1861-1865), Emancipation / Reconstruction Era (1865-1887), Civil Rights Movement, Legal & Legislative History, and Literature & Music.



University of Pennsylvania:

Primary Source guides for Civil Rights and Related Movements

Primary source items organized around theme and organization, such as the NAACP Papers, or digitized oral histories relating to African American life in the Jim Crow south.



Yale University Library:

African American Studies Primary Sources

Primary source items organized around era and cultural theme, such as African American Literature and  Activism, Political Activism, and Civil Rights.



Documenting the American South

Documenting the American South (DocSouth) is a digital publishing initiative sponsored by the University Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. it Includes sixteen thematic collections of primary sources for the study of southern history, literature, and culture.




University of Michigan and Cornell University Libraries

Making of America (MoA)

Making of America (MoA) is a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. Making of America (MoA) is a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction.

Cañada's African-American History Database