Published Date

September 29, 2018

Resource Type

For the Classroom, Vetted Resource


African American, Archives, Cultural, Digital Methods, Legal, Slavery, Social, State & Local (US), Teaching Methods

AHA Topics

Teaching & Learning, Undergraduate Education


Africa, Europe, United States

By Erik Anderson, San Antonio Coll., and Gene Preuss, Univ. of Houston, Downtown

Presented at the 2018 AHA Texas Conference on Introductory History Courses.


Resources for Thinking about Teaching with Primary Sources

From Erik Anderson:

The work of the Stanford History Education Group on online information literacy has some important insights for getting students to think critically about information online search including digitized primary sources. More broadly anything from the Stanford History Education Group such as their Reading List a Historian project is very useful.

From Gene Preuss:

  • “What Does it Mean to Think Historically.”
    • A classic and accessible article to come back to, and good to use with students.
  • John Gaddis, The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
    • Very short and to-the-point.

Favorite Primary Source Resources

From Erik Anderson:

  • One of my go-to sites for lesson plans and project ideas, most of which revolve around primary sources, is Edsitement. For example, Mapping Colonial New England has student explore the changing political of colonial New England through historic maps.
  • I have been trying to develop activities that would allow students to do original archival research in a community college setting. One I project that I have been doing with my classes is locating and mapping racially restrictive housing covenants and comparing them to HOLC maps. You can find many of those HOLC maps on the Mapping Inequality website  but some like those for San Antonio need to be found in more local collections such as HOLC Redlining Maps of San Antonio.
  • To find restrictive covenants, you can use county record which are generally digitized in large counties here in Texas, for example, the County of Bexar or Travis County. Most of these county records allow you to limit search to Restrictions, which should bring up racially restrictive covenants from before or in some cases even after they become non-enforceable in 1948.
  • From my colleague Dr. Marianne Buneo:
    • The first thought I have when thinking about teaching with primary sources (depending on how one thinks about oral histories) is the Voices Oral History Project out of UT Austin. The project started out collecting oral histories of World War II-era Mexican Americans, and has grown to collect oral histories of Latinos and the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam Conflict, and now   social and political activism more broadly defined. At one point the website provided a transcript of the interview, a written synopsis, as well as images of pics, diaries, maps, etc. I’ve used their materials to teach oral history as a methodology.
  • The Voyage of the Slave Ship Sally is a detailed account of one American Slave trading voyage with all the documents such as manifests and log books the record the details of the voyage.
  • Musical Passage explores African music performed for a British visitor in 1688. It contains images of the original text which recorded the music, and contemporary performances of the music.
  • For those interested in ways of using primary sources along with accessible secondary sources you can find some exercises call “Thinking Like a Historian” I developed for the David Shi textbook America: The Essential Learning Edition, (W.W. Norton, 2018). These exercises ask students to evaluate short historical argument using primary sources materials.

From Gene Preuss:

For sources, since I teach quite a bit of Texas history, I use: