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Antiracism: A Resource Guide: Primary Sources

This guide contains resources in diverse formats compiled for students, staff and faculty by the Skyline College Library beginning in Summer 2020.

Primary Sources

Portrait in sepia of Frederick Douglass

Head-and-shoulders portrait of Frederick Douglass, 1862. Photo by John White Hurn.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Why use primary sources?

Primary sources give you a front-row seat to past events and unedited access to the people who shaped our history.  You gain new perspectives by examining the past through the eyes and ears of someone who was there.  

Primary sources may include, but are not limited to:

letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, maps, speeches, interviews, documents produced by government agencies, photographs, audio or video recordings, born-digital items (e.g. emails), research data, and objects or artifacts (such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons).

-- Primary Sources on the Web: Finding, Evaluating, Using. ALA Reference and User Services Association, 2015.


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. 

Consider reaching out to a Skyline College librarian for help as you get started.

You're welcome to Ask a Librarian for guidance.

Ask a Librarian

Not sure where to start? 


Primary Source Sets & Guides


Academic class, Roger Williams University, Nashville, 1899. Courtesy Library of Congress (00651765)

Primary source sets 

Here are collections of high quality primary sources online that 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, we've listed a small selection of the best.

Other Primary Sources Online


University of Virginia logo

The University of Virginia Libraries has compiled an excellent list of "Free Web Sources" containing high quality primary sources for the study of African American history, mostly from universities and museums.

(Note: Scroll half way down the page to locate "Free Web Sources" box). 

Here are just a couple examples of what you'll find there:

Courageous Voices

Featured Speeches by African American Activists

In Memoriam: John Lewis

Mural of John Lewis

Mural of John Lewis, Atlanta, Georgia. Credit: TNS

Featured Articles

From the Atlanta Constitution-Journal

Featured Article

From The New York Times

Featured Books

Featured Photographs


John Lewis looks out over Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington on June 7. (Khalid Naji-Allah/Executive Office of the Mayor/AP)

John Lewis looks out over Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington on June 7, 2020. 

Photo credit: Khalid Naji-Allah/Executive Office of the Mayor/AP.


Photo credit: AFP / Stringer (John Lewis, Whitney Young, Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, James Farmer and Roy Wilkins, meet March 6, 1963 in Roosevelt Hotel in New York)

John Lewis was the last living member of the "Big Six," the Civil Rights Movement leaders who organized the 1963 March on Washington.  Pictured, March 6, 1963, Roosevelt Hotel, New York. L to R: Lewis, Whitney Young, Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, James Farmer and Roy Wilkins. Photo credit: AFP / Stringer

Featured Autobiographies

Featured Database: Ethnic NewsWatch

Ethnic NewsWatch (ProQuest) (Sign in as you would to Canvas)

Ethnic NewsWatch is an interdisciplinary, bilingual database of full-text newspapers, magazines, and journals of the ethnic, minority and native press. Designed "to tell the other side of the story," it gives students and other researchers access to essential, often overlooked perspectives. Dates: 1990-current.


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Recommend Resources

We look forward to your recommendations for additional resources to include in Antiracism: A Resource Guide.

Please submit a Research Help Form including your recommendation(s) and any links or comments you choose.

Thank you for helping to build this new Skyline College resource.