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AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES: SUBJECT GUIDE: Primary Sources

Start your African American Studies research here!

What's a primary source?

Primary sources are original, uninterpreted information.  Scholars analyze primary sources in order to answer research questions. Examples of primary sources vary by discipline.

Examples in the humanities:

  • a novel
  • a painting
  • a theatre performance

Examples in the social sciences:

  • a political, social, or economic theory
  • a dataset
  • the results of an experiment published in a peer-reviewed journal

Example in the sciences:

  • the results of an experiment published in a peer-reviewed journal

Student Publications

Black Ice, a Black Student Union Zine, featuring art, essays, fashion, humor, poetry, photography, stories, rants, and much more. Its purpose is to give students of color and their allies a voice on campus by promoting positive discussions about race and race relations. The links are pdf downloads.

Student Research Award Paper:

Films

Collins Library has a growing collection of feature films and documentaries by and about African Americans. Search the title, director, or subject in Primo. You also can borrow films from other libraries.

Below are two streaming video services available.

Primary Sources in African American Studies

Primary sources in African American Studies will vary depending on your research assignment.

In AFAM 101: Introduction to African American Studies, interviews with members of the community are examples of primary sources.

In AFAM 110: Imaging Blackness, films are examples of primary sources.

In AFAM 401: Narratives of Race, slave narratives and original research are examples of primary sources.

Websites of Primary Sources

This is a small sampling of primary sources about African Americans.

ARTstor

Visual materials, including images, are examples of primary sources. There are several image collections in ARTstor that depict the African American experience. Two major collections include the Image of the Black in Western Art collection from the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute and the Schlesinger History of Women in America collection.  In addition, a keyword search will uncover images related to the history of African Americans, portraits of key figures, and works by African American artists.

Puget Sound Archives & Special Collections, African American Studies

The Archives & Special Collections collects, preserves, and makes available primary source material documenting life at the University as well as collections representing regional, national and international issues. 

A small selection of material is listed below.

Regester and students in Johnston's Negro in U.S. History class, 1949United States Commission on Civil Rights, School desegregation in Tacoma, Washington: a staff report of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1979.

The Black Panther, vol. III, no. 21, September 13, 1969: Black community news service.

Racist Stereotypes of African Americans (1902) - A chromolithographic embossed die cut print.

Sligh, Clarissa T., It wasn't Little Rock, 2005. (artist book)

Meador, Clifton, Long slow march, 1996. (artist book)

Bills of Sale for the Purchase of Slaves, 1835, 1837, 1845.

The Abby Williams Hill papers, 1880s-1930s, document the life and work of this female painter and social activist in the early 20th century.  Hill was especially interested in early education and documented her visit to the Tuskegee Institute and her interactions with Booker T. Washington (1901-1902).

The Archives & Special Collections holds a wide range of material documenting life at the University of Puget Sound; including photographs, Trail articles, and student and administrative papers.  A small selection of digitized material is available online.

Photo Credit: Regester and students in Johnston's Negro in U.S. History class, 1949 from A Sound Past

Featured Archives Source: African American Communist Party Pamphlets

COMMUNIST PARTY. An extraordinary collection of 54 African American Communist Party pamphlets on Emmet Till, Angelo Herndon, and more. New York: American Communist Party, 1940's-1960's.

The African American communist party played a large role in the early civil rights movement and were prominent in advocating for African American workers’ rights in the North during a period when the black population resided largely in the South and was actively migrating out of this region in search of better living conditions and treatment.

Black Thought and Culture

Archives & Special Collections Hours

The Archives & Special Collections is located on the second floor of the Collins Memorial Library.

Set up an appointment: We are open to researchers by appointment Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. To make an appointment, email archives@pugetsound.edu

Stop by during Drop-In Hours: We also have drop-in hours Monday through Thursday from 12:00 to 3:00 PM. Appointments are not required during drop-in hours.

We look forward to assisting you!