Featured Primary Sources

African American History

Nothing can enrich and enliven our understanding of the nation’s past, or dispel apathy about it, more powerfully than primary sources. The primary sources below open up a variety of viewpoints and have been chosen by master teachers specifically for use in the classroom. Affiliate School members can print a packet that includes an image of the document, photograph, or other resource, a transcript where applicable, and text to place the document in historical context. Additionally, you may want to search the Gilder Lehrman Collection itself for other resources to enrich your lessons.

Posting bond for manumission of a slave, May 5, 1757 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

A bond for the manumission of a slave, 1757

Creator: Philip Livingston Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
A view of Savanah [sic] as it stood the 29th of March, 1734, engraving by Pierre

A View of Savannah, Georgia, 1734

Creator: Pierre Fourdrinier Curriculum Subjects: World History Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Henry Weeden to Watson Freeman, December 4, 1850 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

An African American protests the Fugitive Slave Law, 1850

Creator: Henry Weeden Curriculum Subjects: Economics Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Inaugural Parade. Michelle and Barack Obama watch the parade from the viewi

Barack Obama’s First Inaugural Address, 2009

Creator: Barack Obama Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Blank Advice sheet for The Birth of a Nation, 1915. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Birth of a Nation, 1915

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Honor King: End Racism! broadside, April 8, 1968. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Civil rights posters, 1968

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Declaration of Independence, Charleston, South Carolina, August 2, 1776. (Gilde

Declaration of Independence, 1776

Creator: Continental Congress Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Giles B. Jackson to R.C. Burrow, June 22, 1901. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Disfranchisement of African American voters in Virginia, 1901

Creator: Giles Jackson Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
 “Don’t Buy A Ford Ever Again” broadside, c. 1960. (GLC08259)

Don’t Buy a Ford Ever Again, ca. 1960

Creator: Citizens Council of Greater New Orleans Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Franklin D. Roosevelt to Joseph Curran, January 14, 1942. (Gilder Lehrman Collec

FDR on racial discrimination, 1942

Creator: Franklin D. Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9
Frederick Douglass to Robert Adams, December 4, 1888. (Gilder Lehrman Collection

Frederick Douglass on the disfranchisement of black voters, 1888

Creator: Frederick Douglass Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
George Wallace to Ms. Martin, April 14, 1964. (GLC00295)

George Wallace on segregation, 1964

Creator: George Wallace Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
George Washington to John Francis Mercer, September 9, 1786. (Gilder Lehrman

George Washington on the abolition of slavery, 1786

Creator: George Washington Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9
John Adams to George Churchman and Jacob Lindley, January 24, 1801. (Gilder Lehr

John Adams on the abolition of slavery, 1801

Creator: John Adams Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
 John Brown, “Address of John Brown to the Virginia Court..." December, 1859 (Gi

John Brown’s final speech, 1859

Creator: John Brown Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
John Quincy Adams to Roger S. Baldwin, November 11, 1840 (Gilder Lehrman Co

John Quincy Adams and the Amistad case, 1841

Creator: John Quincy Adams Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, speech fragment concerning the abolition of slavery, ca. July 1

Lincoln on abolition in England and the United States, 1858

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Abraham Lincoln, speech fragment on slavery and the American government, ca. 185

Lincoln speech on slavery and the American Dream, 1858

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
NAACP, “For the Good of America” broadside, ca. 1926. (Gilder Lehrman Collection

Lynching in America, ca. 1926

Creator: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
he Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.... (London, 1794). (Lib

Olaudah Equiano

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Economics, World History Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Paul Revere, “The Bloody Massacre in King-Street, March 5, 1770.” Boston, 1770.

Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre, 1770

Creator: Paul Revere Curriculum Subjects: Art, World History Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.

President Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, 1861

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
The Inaugural address of President Abraham Lincoln delivered at the National Cap

President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, 1865

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Robert F. Kennedy, [Report to President John F. Kennedy regarding civil rights],

Robert Kennedy on civil rights, 1963

Creator: Robert F. Kennedy Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
“$2,500 Reward!,” Mississippi Co., Missouri, broadside, August 23, 1852. (Gi

Runaway slave ad, 1852

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Freedmen’s contract between Isham G. Bailey and freedmen Cooper Hughs and Charl

Sharecropper contract, 1867

Creator: Isham G. Bailey Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Issac & Rosa, Slave children from New Orleans, 1863 (GLC05111.02.1051)

Slave Children of New Orleans, 1863

Creator: Charles Paxson Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Stephen Bayard to Robert Livingston, November 12, 1725.

The death of slaves on a voyage, 1725

Creator: Stephen Bayard Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Emancipation Proclamation [California printing, Cheesman copy], January 1, 1863

The Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
William Henry Seward, [Fifteenth Amendment resolution], February 27, 1869 (Gilde

The Fifteenth Amendment, 1870

Creator: William Henry Seward Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, notes for the “House Divided” speech, December 1857 (Gilder

The “House Divided” Speech, ca. 1857–1858

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Frederick Douglass to Hugh Auld, October 4, 1857 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

“I love you but hate slavery”: Frederick Douglass to his former owner, Hugh Auld, 1857

Creator: Frederick Douglass Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
“Men of Color, to Arms! to Arms!” broadside, ca. 1863 (Private Collection)

“Men of Color, To Arms! To Arms,” 1863

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: