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HIST 043: Antislavery in America (SC): Primary Sources FAQ

History 043: Antislavery in America - Bruce Dorsey - Spring 2015

Primary Sources on Antislavery in America

Before searching for primary sources pertaining to antislavery, take a careful look at the bibliography of primary sources prepared by Professor Dorsey. You can access it on Moodle.

What are some common types of primary sources?

These definitions are taken from Primary Sources at Yale, a project of the Collections Collaborative.

Manuscripts and Archival Materials

Manuscript and archival materials are unique resources that can be found in only one library or institution (though digital copies or copies on microfilm or microfiche may be available elsewhere)....Manuscripts and archives are unpublished primary sources. The term archives, when it refers to documents, as opposed to a place where documents are held, refers to the records made or received and maintained by an institution or organization in pursuance of its legal obligations or in the transaction of its business. The term manuscripts, which originally referred to handwritten items, refers now to a body of papers of an individual or a family. Both terms can encompasses a broad array of documents and records of numerous formats and types. Archival records or manuscripts may include business and personal correspondence, diaries and journals, legal and financial documents, photographs, maps, architectural drawings, objects, oral histories, computer tape, video and audio cassettes.

Serials (newspapers, periodicals, magazines)

A serial is a publication, such as a magazine, newspaper, or scholarly journal, that is published in ongoing installments. Like books, serials can function both as primary sources and secondary sources depending on how one approaches them. Age is an important factor in determining whether a serial publication is primarily a primary or a secondary source. For instance, an article on slavery in a recent issue of the Journal of Southern History should be read as a secondary source, as a scholar’s attempt to interpret primary source materials such as ledgers, diaries, or government documents in order to write an account of the past. An article on slavery published in the Journal of Southern History in 1935, however, can be read not only as a secondary source on slavery but also – and perhaps more appropriately – it can be read as a primary source that reveals how scholars in the 1930s interpreted slavery.

Visual Materials

The term “visual material” refers to any primary source in which images, instead of or in conjunction with words and/or sounds, are used to convey meaning. Some common and useful types of visual materials are as follows:

> Original art, including but not limited to paintings, drawings, sculpture, architectural drawings and plans, and monoprints.
> Prints, which are works produced in multiple but limited numbers such as woodcuts, engravings, etchings, and lithographs
> Graphic arts, including materials such as posters, trade cards, and computer generated graphics
> Photographs
> Film and video

Any of these materials can provide valuable information to a researcher. Factual information can often be extracted from visual materials; however, the best information imparted by these materials is often of a subjective nature, providing insight into how people see themselves and the world in which they exist.