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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. Primary Sources
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.
Freedmen's Bureau Online
From 1865 to 1872, this federal agency provided relief to former slaves and impoverished whites in the Southern States. Its records provide an extensive documentary source for investigating the African American experience in the Reconstruction era.
Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868 : Reconstruction, Republicanism, and Race Information
Photostatic copies from the Freedman's Bureau records held by the National Archives of the United States, consisting of letters, affidavits, and reports relating to a violent episode in Camilla, Georgia, in 1868 involving local republicans, freedmen, and townspeople.
The Gilded Age (1870-1900)
Denver Public Library Digital Collections
Photographs, maps, and other documents from the collections chronicling the people, places, and events that shaped the settlement and growth of the Western United States.
Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930
Digitized books, photographs, manuscript collections and more, with a focus on the 19th century, intended to provide a window into the lives of ordinary immigrants.
Railroads and the Making of Modern America
Seeks to "document and represent the rapid and far-reaching social effects of railroads and to explore the transformation of the United States to modern ideas, institutions, and practices in the nineteenth century."
Progressive Era, World War I & Roaring Twenties (1900-1929)
Great Depression, New Deal & World War II (1929-1945)
Videotaped first-person stories, photographs and documents compiled by an organization dedicated to preserving, educating, and sharing the story of World War II-era incarceration of Japanese Americans.
Franklin-Access to the FDR Library's Digital Collections
FRANKLIN is a virtual research room and digital repository that provides free and open access to the digitized collections of the Roosevelt Library—to everyone, anywhere in the world. Whether you are a lover of history, a student working on a school project, or a scholar, FRANKLIN allows you to keyword search for archival documents and photographs and to search, browse, and view whole files, just as you could if you came to the Library’s research room in-person. Now available online are some of the most important documents of the twentieth century—primary source documentation of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s experiences leading the nation through the Great Depression and World War II.
The Great Depression Interviews
Videos and written transcripts of interviews conducted for a PBS TV series on the Great Depression.
African-American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship
Library of Congress exhibition which showcases documents exploring black America's quest for equality from the early national period through the twentieth century
American Presidency Project
Presidential papers, speeches, press conferences, election data and documents, and more
Discovering American Women's History Online
Digital collections of primary sources (photos, letters, diaries, artifacts, etc.) that document the history of women in the United States.
Landmark Cases of the Supreme Court
Background summaries, links to the full-text majority opinions, and excerpts from the majority and dissenting opinions for 17 pivotal Supreme Court Cases, including Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and Roe v. Wade (1973).
Veterans' History Project
Oral history interviews, letters, photos and other materials of American veterans from WWI to the present.
Digital Library of Georgia
Gateway to Georgia's history and culture through digitized books, photographs, newspapers, audio, video, and other resources. Search or browse by time period, topic, county, and resource type.
Photographs from the Georgia Archives documenting over 100 years of the state's history.
Georgia's Virtual Vault
This is your portal to some of Georgia's most important historical documents, from 1733 to the present. The Virtual Vault provides virtual access to historic Georgia manuscripts, photographs, maps, and government records housed in the state archives.