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International Studies - 499 From Slavery to Freedom

Dr. Ian Stewart, Fall 2018

Primary Sources

Primary Sources are immediate, first-hand accounts of a topic, from people who had a direct connection with it. Primary sources can include:

  • Newspaper reports, by reporters who witnessed an event or who quote people who did.
  • Speeches, diaries, letters and interviews - what the people involved said or wrote.
  • Texts of laws and other original documents (such as some government documents).
  • Datasets, survey data, such as census information.
  • Photographs, video, or audio that capture an event.
  • Original research.

UNM Libraries has over 50 databases/search engines that are focused on primary sources.  You can browse through these via the UNM Libraries homepage tab labeled DATABASES and then clicking on the TYPE dropdown and choosing ARCHIVES & PRIMARY SOURCES.


Newspaper articles written at the time of an event are considered primary sources.  UNM has access to over 62 subscription online news databases. to browse all of them, visit our Newspapers/News database list. TItles on this list include: African American Newspapers 1827-1998, American Indian Newspapers, American Race Relations 1941-1996, Apartheid: Global Perspectives 1946-1996, Civil War Era, Ethnic Newswatch, Global Newsstream, HIspanic American Newspapers 1808-1980, Late Qing and Republican Era Chinese Newspapers, New York TImes, and MANY MORE!

Government Document, Data, NGO/IGO Reports

Documents and data created at the time of an event (think of congressional testimony, legislative reports and documented daily chamber and committee activities, or surveys conducted at the time) are also considered primary source documents. To learn more about accessing government documents, visit the guides below and click on the GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS, DATA, or NEWS tabs....also check fr NGO/IGO reports from groups like UNHCR -- if they were written during an event, they could be a primary source.

Find Sources in the UNM Library

The following Library of Congress Subject Terms can be combined with keywords like "source," "document," "letters," "diaries" to identify printed primary sources in the library. There are many others.  Consult your librarian to learn more.

  • Antislavery movements
  • Fugitive slaves
  • Plantation life
  • Slave insurrections
  • Slave narratives
  • Slave Trade
  • Slavery (you can add a country) History
  • Slavery in literature
  • Slaves -- Emancipation
  • Slaves -- Legal status, laws, etc.
  • Slaves -- Religious life
  • Slaves -- Writings
  • Women slaves

Find Other Library/Archives Primary Sources

Many university libraries host print and online archives with primary sources (e.g,. letters, diaries, interviews, posters or photographs) related to historical events. One way to identify archives is to search GOOGLE with a search string something like:  site:edu cuban revolution archive (note that the site:edu tells Goolge to look for univerity websites) to see if there is anything digitized or to see who has big collections.  Then you could then contact those archives to see if they have suggestions.


Visit these other UNM Libraries research guides related to archives with primary sources:

Below are examples of archives related to the trans-atlantic slave trade: