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St. Peter's Prep Libguide: Primary Sources

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Welcome to our primary sources resource page.  Here you will learn how to differentiate between primary and secondary sources, see where you can access primary sources, and even test your primary source vs secondary source skills. 

Primary Research Tips!

  • Make sure you are well versed in your topic before you begin your primary research. You need to be aware of how people at the time wrote or spoke about your topic. For example, if you are researching World War I, you won't find primary sources by typing "WWI" into a search bar, because people didn't use that term at the time.

  • Sometimes secondary sources can lead you right to a primary source. Example: an article about the Cuban Missile Crisis (secondary) references a presidential speech (primary). 

  • We usually don't recommend Google for academic research, but sometimes it can be helpful for primary research. Try googling a topic keyword + "papers" or "archive" --you can turn up some great results. For example, you can find primary documents by googling "President Roosevelt" + "papers".

  • How do you know if your primary source is reliable? Stick to items found in archives like The National Archive or the Library of Congress, or a university library.  Museums often have digital collections that can be really helpful.


What are Primary Resources?

Videos Explaining Primary and Secondary Sources and How to Use Them

Museums and Archives are great places to look for primary resources!

Umbra Search brings together hundreds of thousands digitized of African American materials from over 1,000 libraries and archives across the country.

Black History Primary Sources

Black Freedom Struggle in the United States

Use this free resource to connect to primary sources that relate to the history of African Americans in the United States. Sources start in the 18th century and go up to the 21st. 

African American Newspapers in the South, 1870-1926

African American Newspapers in the South from Accessible Archives offers you the chance to read newspaper articles written by and for African Americans from the Reconstruction through the Jim Crow period. 

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click search or browse to access all materials in this collection. 

African American Newspapers

This resource offers you access to a large collection of African American Newspapers from the 1800s that touch upon the history, culture, politics and major events of the times. 

Scroll down to the middle of the page and click search or browse to access all materials in this collection. 


Can you accurately select between primary and secondary sources?

Primary Resources

                                             An incredible collection of historical newspapers and books--head here first for American History primary research! 

 Heritage Quest Online | Nashville Public Library

An excellent source for primary documents--census data, genealogical records, old books and more.
The New York Times Times Machine provides you access to all of their editions from September 18, 1851 to December 31, 2002. 

Using Primary Sources in your Writing

History and Law Databases

Infobase: American History

American History Database provides you with access to overview articles, primary sources, maps, videos, and timelines on a variety of subjects relating to American history from the colonial period to now. 



Gale in Context: World History

Gale in Context provides you with access to scholarly articles, primary sources, news articles, videos, podcasts and more on a wide variety of subjects relating to World History from ancient to contemporary times. 

Internet History Sourcebooks

Internet History Sourcebooks through Fordham University provides you with access to articles and primary sources relating to ancient, medieval, and modern history. 


ABC-CLIO provides you with a series of political, historical, and diverse cultural databases which are organized by time period and give you access to overview articles, reference articles, primary sources, and media. 

Asia for Educatiors

Asia for Educators is a resource from Columbia University that provides you with access to a variety of primary sources, timelines, maps, and videos on a variety of topics relating to Asia in world history. 


Vatican Archives

Exploring digital archives is fun--but they're even cooler in person! Take a peek at the Vatican's most treasured documents in this clip from Museum Secrets