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What is a Primary Source?
Primary sources are the raw tools of historical research - the material closest to the topic of investigation.
Often they are created during the time period which is being studied (correspondence, diaries, newspapers, government documents, art) but they can also be produced later by eyewitnesses or participants (memoirs, oral histories).
You may find primary sources in their original format (usually in an archive) or reproduced in a variety of ways: books, microfilm, digital, etc.
General U.S. History Primary Source Resources
Digital Library of Georgia
The Digital Library of Georgia is a gateway to Georgia's history and culture found in digitized books, manuscripts, photographs, government documents, newspapers, maps, audio, video, and other resources.
Digital Public Library of America
The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) offers a single point of access to millions of items - photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, moving images, and more - from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States.
Colonial America & The Revolutionary War
The American State Papers
The American State Papers, comprising a total of thirty-eight physical volumes, contain the legislative and executive documents of Congress during the period 1789 to 183
Primary Source Sets
Primary source collection sets from the Library of Congress. Sets include documents on the first three presidents, the settlement of Jamestown, and Hispanic Exploration of the Americas.
Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
Primary source documentation on the Revolutionary War and the start of the nation from the National Archives.
Salem Witch Trials Archive
The Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project consists of an electronic collection of primary source materials relating to the Salem witch trials of 1692 and a new transcription of the court records.
Slavery & African Americans
Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938
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 of the Works Progress Administration (WPA
Digital Library on American Slavery
The Digital Library on American Slavery is an expanding resource compiling various independent online collections focused upon race and slavery in the American South, made searchable through a single, simple interface. Although the current focus of DLAS is sources associated with North Carolina, there is considerable data contained herein relating to all 15 slave states and Washington, D.C., including detailed personal information about slaves, slaveholders, and free people of color.
Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database
Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database is the result of the African Origins Project, a scholar-public collaborative endeavor to trace the geographic origins of Africans transported in the transatlantic slave trade. Many have contributed to this international research project, which is based at Emory University. The database provides information on almost 35,000 slaving voyages that forcibly embarked over 10 million Africans for transport to the Americas between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Native American Documents
Southeastern Native American Documents, 1730-1842 contains approximately 2,000 documents and images relating to the Native American population of the Southeastern United States from the collections of the University of Georgia Libraries, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville Library, the Frank H.McClung Museum, the Tennessee State Library and Archives, the Tennessee State Museum and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. The documents are comprised of letters, legal proceedings, military orders, financial papers, and archaeological images relating to Native Americans in the Southeast.
Sequoyah National Research Center
The collections of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Sequoyah National Research Center constitute the largest assemblage of Native American expression in the world. Our mission, to acquire and preserve the writings and ideas of Native North Americans, is accomplished through collecting the written word and art of Native Americans and creating a research atmosphere that invites indigenous peoples to make the Center an archival home for their creative work.
Smithsonia Native American History
Primary source documentation from the Smithsonian on Native American History, focused mostly on early colonial history.
The Native Northeast Portal
The New England Indian Papers Series Database is a scholarly critical edition of New England Native American primary source materials gathered into one robust virtual collection. It offers students, educators, researchers, Native American tribal members, and the general public, visual and intellectual access to significant historical knowledge for the purposes of teaching, scholarly analysis, and research.
Pre-Civil War & The Civil War
Civil War in the American South
In recognition of the sesquicentennial of the start of the American Civil War, Civil War in the American South provides a central portal to access digital collections from the Civil War Era (1850-1865) held by members of the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL)
Cyrus F. Jenkins Civil War Diary, 1861-1862
The Cyrus F. Jenkins Civil War Diary, 1861 - 1862, held at the Troup County Archives, chronicles Cyrus Franklin Jenkins' experiences as an enlisted man in the Meriwether Volunteers, Company B, 13th Georgia Infantry Regiment, during the first year of the war, June 1861 to March 1862.
Making of America
Making of America (MOA) is a digital library of primary sources in American social history primarily from the antebellum period through reconstruction. The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology.
Cornelius C. Platter Civil War Diary, 1864 - 1865
The Cornelius C. Platter Civil War Diary of Lt. (later Capt.) Cornelius C. Platter, of the 81st Ohio Infantry Volunteers, from November 10, 1864 to April 27, 1865. Platter's diary details Sherman's march through Georgia from Rome to Savannah and the march north through the Carolinas.
Robert Toombs, Letters to Julia Ann DuBose Toombs from 1850-1867.
Robert Toombs, Letters to Julia Ann DuBose Toombs consists of correspondence from Robert Toombs to his wife, Julia Ann DuBose Toombs in Washington, Wilkes County, Georgia from 1850-1867. The correspondence generally discusses current events; his land holdings in South Georgia, Alabama, and Texas; people; other soldiers; and his wish to be with his wife and family.
Georgia Historic Newspapers Archive
Since 2007, the DLG has partnered with universities, archives, public libraries, historical societies, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions to digitize historical newspapers from around the state.
Arts of the United States
Arts of the United States, a joint project between the Lamar Dodd Art School, University of Georgia and the University of Georgia and Yale University Libraries, contains over 4000 images of works important to the study of the history of art in the United States. The pieces, dating from the 17th century through the 20th, include architecture, decorative arts, painting, sculpture, graphic arts, photography, and stage and costume design as well as Native American art and artifacts.
Barnard's Photographic Views of the Sherman Campaign, 1866
Barnard's Photographic Views of the Sherman Campaign, 1866 contains images of the 61 albumen prints found in early American photographer and member of the Matthew Brady studio, George N. Barnard. Subjects of the photographs include Sherman and his generals, Nashville, Chattanooga Valley, Atlanta, and Savannah.
Vanishing Georgia contains nearly 18,000 photographs from the Georgia Archives documenting over 100 years of the state's history. Topics covered include, but are not limited to, family and business life, street scenes and architecture, agriculture, school and civic activities, important individuals and events in Georgia history, and landscapes.