Skip to Main Content

Classics of African American Theater: THTR 0841

Course guide for Theater 0841, Classics of African American Theater.

Why Primary Sources?


Handwritten letter addressed to "Langston" (Langston Hughes) dated Jan. 10, 1936

Langston Hughes Papers. James Weldon Johnson Collection in the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Primary source material is contemporary with the period or thing studied. A primary source will be an original document, source, or text rather than one of criticism, discussion, or summary (known as a secondary source). You can find primary sources in contemporary newspapers and magazines, archival collections, and primary source readers, among other places.

Digital Harlem

Digital Harlem logo

This site takes a novel and sophisticated approach to the presentation of primary-source ephemera. Unlike other history websites, Digital Harlem: Everyday Life, 1915-1930 does not merely reproduce digitized copies of primary documents. Instead its usefulness derives from the integration of historical fragments that can be combined and recombined into maps that show aspects of daily life that are otherwise easy to overlook and difficult to characterize in narrative form. This site, which continues to be updated regularly, will contribute to new historical interpretations and ways of understanding the Harlem Renaissance. Digital Harlem is the 2011 winner of the RUSA ABC-CLIO History Award.

American Memory

American Memory Logo

No search for primary-source materials is complete without a visit to American Memory, Library of Congress. This vast collection can be keyword searched or browsed by topic, time period, or media types that include manuscripts, maps, motion pictures, photos, video recordings, and more.

Highly Recommended

U.S. National Archives

National Archives Logo

NARA offers one of the richest repositories for U.S. history, but only a relatively small portion of the collection is available online. Begin on NARA's Research page, which includes access to:

National Archives Experience: Digital Vaults contains 1,200 documents, photographs, drawings, maps, and other materials drawn from the vast holdings of the National Archives and covering all periods of U.S. history to about 2004.

The Archival Facility for NARA's Mid-Atlantic Region is located in Center City Philadelphia.

Making of America


Making of America Logo

"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" (University of Michigan).

  • Making of America Books - The book collection currently contains approximately 10,000 books with 19th century imprints.


Documenting the American South logo

"Documenting the American South (DocSouth) is a digital publishing initiative that provides Internet access to texts, images, and audio files related to southern history, literature, and culture. Currently DocSouth includes ten thematic collections of books, diaries, posters, artifacts, letters, oral history interviews, and songs" (University of North Carolina).

Civil Rights Archive

Robert Penn Warren commemorative stamp


"In 1965, Robert Penn Warren wrote a book, now out of print, entitled Who Speaks for the Negro? To research this publication, he traveled the country and spoke with a variety of people who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. He spoke with nationally-known figures as well as people working in the trenches of the Movement. The volume contains many of the transcripts from these conversations. The Who Speaks for the Negro? Archive [from Vanderbilt University Libraries] contains digitized versions of the original reel-to-reel recordings, as well as copies of the correspondence, transcripts, and other printed materials related to his research for the provocatively-titled book."

BOOKS: Primary-Source U.S. History Databases

All information on this page is adapted from the research guide in history by David C. Murray.  Thank you, David!

The following databases provide electronic reproductions of full-text primary-source books. 

PERIODICALS: Primary-Source U.S. History Databases

The following databases -- many Temple-only, a few open-access -- index and in most cases provide electronic reproductions of full-text, primary source magazines, journals, and newspapers. 

EPHEMERA: Primary-Source U.S. History Databases

The following databases -- most Temple-only, one open-access -- provide electronic reproductions of full-text primary-source documents including maps, letters, diaries, oral histories, memoirs and other personal narratives. Many of these databases are relevant to the history of other parts of the world such as Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

GOV DOCS: Primary-Source European History Databases

These databases provide electronic reproductions of full-text primary-source documents that originated from the governments of the United Kingdom and other European countries.

STILL IMAGES & VIDEO: Primary-Source U.S. History Databases

Find visual materials such as drawings and paintings, still photographs and videos.