US History Primary Source Collections

American History Documents from the Colonial Era to the Civil War Era ( This website and collection of primary documents was created and maintained by Ashbrook Center at Ashland University. It contains an extensive collection of primary source documents divided by historical periods including the Colonial, Founding, Expansion, Antebellum, and Civil War eras. Some of the sources collected are excerpts and others are full documents. Sources in each category are organized further into additional links to more specific sources related to each era represented. The sources included are speeches, political writings, personal letters, etc. Some links have as many as 95 different individual sources while others only have a few by specific authors. As a result, this website contains hundreds of sources available to supplement lectures, class activities, and help students to write improved scholarly essays. The website is maintained and updated regularly by the Ashbrook Center. There is an extensive amount to examine and sort through but overall the quality is superb

The American Revolution and its Era: Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, 1750-1789 ( is maintained by the US Library of Congress and contains about 2000 maps from multiple countries during the time-period. When you click on a map there is a brief explanation of the map and various particulars. It is well organized site and you can drill down to asking for maps by states. There is another section of articles and essays about mapping and surveying in the time period and why it became essential to have more accurate maps.

Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938 ( is maintained by the US Library of Congress, and contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves. These narratives were collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project (FWP) of the Works Progress Administration, later renamed Work Projects Administration (WPA). At the conclusion of the Slave Narrative project, a set of edited transcripts was assembled and microfilmed in 1941 as the seventeen-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. In 2000-2001, with major support from the Citigroup Foundation, the Library digitized the narratives from the microfilm edition and scanned from the originals 500 photographs, including more than 200 that had never been microfilmed or made publicly available. This online collection is a joint presentation of the Manuscript and Prints and Photographs divisions of the Library of Congress. You can search by keywords or browse the interviews. (“Volume” and “State” work best for browsing.) Having made your selection click “View page images” to read the interview.

Civil Rights Digital Library ( this repository is managed by the University of Georgia, the resources reference areas throughout the South. This repository has a plethora of resources from newsreel footage to books and yearbooks showcasing desegregation and Civil Rights. Everything has an abstract with a link that goes to a full copy of that particular source, which is very helpful when conducting subject searches. The University of Georgia Library System has taken the time to not only provide an A to Z index of all sources, but they have also divided it among media type, genres, and resources for teachers as well. There are approximately 250 sources available on this site, but they also include links to other primary sources. For example, there is a collection of primary sources for research into the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activities from 1960-1966. From those sources, and the abstract provided by the University of Georgia, it expands your search to more primary documents related to SNCC and the Civil Rights Movement. I was particularly interested in the various newsreels from the era, showing desegregation of various high schools. There is an external link to another repository run by the University of Virginia, where they have compiled news footage of attempts to desegregation during Virginia’s Massive Resistance. This database was last updated in 2013.

Colonial Williamsburg: Historical, Educational, and Scholarly Materials ( is maintained by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and includes a vrtual tour of Williamsburg, links to photographs of 17th artifacts from the museums collection, as well as a variety of manuscripts and newspapers from the period. The site also includes a section on slavery and remembrance, in collaboration with UNESCO's slave route project, as well as a link that lets you explore current research projects in Williamsburg.

Constitution of the United States: Primary Documents in American History ( This repository is maintained by the US Library of Congress and provides several hundred documents pertaining to the debate over and adoption of the US Constitution. It includes the resolutions, proclamations, committee reports, and an early printing of the Constitution. Some notable inclusions are: Elliot’s debates, a five-volume collection that is considered the best source of information about the US government between the end of the Constitutional Convention and the opening of the first federal Congress; three of the four volumes of Farrand’s records, covering the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention; and Joseph Gale’s “The Making of the US Constitution”. In addition, extracts of proceedings state assemblies and conventions relating to the adoption of the Constitution, and extensive collections of papers from Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington and Madison. There are also links to related collections, both in the Library of Congress and external websites. This collection provides an outstanding resource to develop an understanding of the varied perspectives on the Constitution held by those tasked with its development.

Freedom on the Move ( is a digital archive of various primary sources associated with runaway slaves in the United States in the pre-Civil War time period produced by a collaboration of several American Universities. With the increasing use and availability of newspapers that started with the communications revolution in the early nineteenth century, many slave owners began to place advertisements about slaves who had escaped from their plantations in hopes of having them returned. In addition, there is also a large collection of jailers who would then post advertisements about potential fugitive slaves that they had captured in order to try and find a match. Though often inaccurate descriptions of slaves themselves, these sources provide great insight into the wide variety of fugitive slaves throughout the antebellum time period and will hopefully provide valuable insight for students to help reclaim the narrative of slavery in the United States by introducing slave agency back into the historical conversation.

Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945 ( is maintained by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and the Institute for Learning Technologies; Teachers College, Columbia University. A database of more than 20,000 items relating to the New Deal is available on this site. A “Document Library” contains more than 900 newspaper and journal articles, speeches, letters, advertisements, reports, and other textual materials, treating a broad array of subjects relevant to the period’s social, cultural, political, and economic history, while placing special emphasis on New Deal relief agencies and issues relating to labor, education, agriculture, the Supreme Court, and African Americans. The site was last updated in 2013.

The Papers of George C. Marshall (!/collection=7): This c is maintained by the Marshall Foundation, an independent non-profit research organization, and collects the American general and diplomat Marshall’s speeches, personal correspondence, World War II correspondence, and his writings from when he served as Secretary of State in the early days of the Cold War. There hundreds of complete sources on a wide variety of 20th Century U.S. History foreign policy events.

A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution ( Based on a 1987 Smithsonian exhibition and maintained by the Smithsonian Institution, this site allows visitors to click and drag through sections of text, music, personal accounts, and images that tell stories of the forced—and ultimately determined to be unconstitutional—internment during World War II of 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast. Also provides searching capabilities to retrieve images of more than 800 artifacts relating to the lives of those interned. Sections in the narrative cover immigration, removal, internment, loyalty, service, and justice. Provides a 5,000-word audio file of interview excerpts; 6,400-word accompanying text from the 1994 traveling exhibition; annotated timeline; 72-title bibliography; 20 links to related sites; and two classroom activities. Of value to students of Asian American history, the home front during World War II, and constitutional issues. The site was last updated in 2001.

Reconstruction ( The collection is maintained by the Ashbrook Center, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to strengthening American constitutional self-government. It contains 31 documents from multiple people in varied roles from President Lincoln to Frederick Douglas to party leaders to state government leaders who through multiple document types from presidential addresses to constitutional amendments to letters to acts of congress show the evolution of reconstruction policy after the Civil War. Through their own words readers can seek to understand how our country began to grapple with the issues arising from trying to re-unite the country and protect (or not) the rights of the newly freed slaves and permit Confederate states back into the Union. The documents help the reader analyze the both the beginning reconciliation and ultimate failure of Reconstruction and the protection of freedmen. The repository is both chronological as well as presenting themes by which the documents can be grouped. Of special use for teachers, study questions are given for each document - both for that document alone as well as comparison questions with other documents in the collection.

Franklin D Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum ( is a collection of digitized material from the Roosevelt Library in partnership with the Library, National Archives, the Roosevelt Institute and Marist College. In includes two major collections of FDRs Papers as President, selected Eleanor Roosevelt correspondences. There are over 800,000 pages of documents and 2,500 historical photographs. Updates to the digitized collection are ongoing.

Roy Rosenzweig Center For History And New Media ( This collection of media sources is part of George Mason University and has a variety of sources and information from different projects compiled by different partners with GMU. There are dozens of projects that have been completed since the Center was first opened by Dr. Roy Rosenzweig in the 1980s. It has evolved into one of the foremost digital media centers for history and the humanities in the Washington, DC area and also within the United States. Some of the variety of sources contained with the RRCHNM are projects related to the history of the National Mall, recreating digital copies of the Department of War archives from 1784-1800 (lost in a fire), and "Teaching Hidden History" a program designed to help teach teachers how to create online learning modules and historical resources for a variety of programs. Other projects encompass modern US and World History topics. Something else to highlight important is a project called "Zotero" that was designed by historical scholars for historical scholars to collect and process online resources. This is a plug-in app for most web browsers and does an amazing job of keeping source information for a major project. This can be used for any period, world or US related. The website is regularly updated.

Urban Experience in Chicago: Hull-House and Its Neighborhoods, 1889-1963 ( The Urban Experience in Chicago Site is focused on the settlement house piece of the Progressive Era reforms. This site includes more than 700 items that includes letters, memoirs, reports, photographs, articles and maps that would be perfect to use. The materials have a historical narrative that highlights Jane Addams and the history and legacy behind the Hull House in Chicago. The site has numerous topics about life at the Hull House, reforms from the Progressive Era, the effects and consequences of urbanization and immigration. The site was last updated in April of 2006 and it is supported by the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum.

Voices from the Days of Slavery ( Library of Congress stores twenty-six audio recordings of interviews with former slaves. This particular collection allows you to read or listen to seven of these. Based on their personal experiences, Fountain Hughes, George Johnson, Uncle Bob Ledbetter, Uncle Billy McCrea, Isom Moseley, Wallace Quarterman, and Charlie Smith each talk about their lives as slaves and later as free men. (To see the transcription of these interviews select “Read” and then “View text” in the next window.)

The Women’s Liberation Movement Print Culture collection ( ): The collection is one of many found in Duke University Library’s Digital Repository but the Women’s Liberation Movement Print Culture collection is organized and contributed by The Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture. More specifically the source collection contributions were made by: Alix Kate Shulman papers, Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Archives, and Robin Morgan papers. The focus of the collection is every issues and major event from the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. There are newspapers, photographs, letters, speeches, and manifestos. The majority of the digital collection are articles. The quality of the photographs and articles are excellent and include a variety of published and unpublished material. Some of the material addresses controversial topics such as abortion because Roe v. Wade is within the scope of the collection. The collection compliments several US History textbooks because it includes several primary resources focused on the Miss America protests which are often featured in the textbooks. There are currently 103 sources and the collection is described as "new", but it is unclear the date of the last submission. The most fascinating aspect of the digital collection is how easily students could research how many of the topics are currently trending in national news. From the #metoo movement to Supreme Court revisiting abortion rights, there is so much about the Women’s Liberation Movement that was unresolved or continues to shift.

This directory was prepared with the assistance of Liz Akers, Kim Belknap, Kent Bailey, James Carr, Steve Celio, Steve Hicks, Jen High, Derek Hughes, Marie Fox, Liz Glynn, Doug Graney, Sheryl Gusman, Eric LeHew, Susan Magurn, Heidi McPhillips, Chris Pasternak, Collin Ray, Rick Segerdahl, Russ Thompson, and Kevin Throckmorton.