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+
Letter from John S. Mosby to Sam Chapman, June 4, 1907. (GLC03921.21p1)

A former Confederate officer on slavery and the Civil War, 1907

Creator: John S. Mosby Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Detail from a Map of the Missouri Compromise

A Founding Father on the Missouri Compromise, 1819

Creator: Rufus King Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Ku Klux Klan to Davie Jeems, ca. 1868 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

A Ku Klux Klan threat, 1868

Creator: Ku Klux Klan Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Aurelia Hale to her sister Sarah, June 11, 1821.  (GLC08934)

A northerner’s view of southern slavery, 1821

Creator: Aurelia Hale Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+

A View of Savannah, Georgia, 1734

Creator: Pierre Fourdrinier Curriculum Subjects: World History Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
American Colonization Society membership certificate, 1833, detail. (GLC)

American Colonization Society membership certificate, 1833

Creator: American Colonization Society Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
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+

An African American soldier’s pay warrant, 1780

Creator: the State of Connecticut Curriculum Subjects: Economics Grade Levels:
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:
Hugh Auld to Anna Richardson, October 6, 1846 (GLC07484.04)

Buying Frederick Douglass’s freedom, 1846

Creator: Hugh Auld, Walter Lowrie, and J. Meredith Curriculum Subjects: Economics Grade Levels:
Color Voters Read, broadside, 1894. (GLC09000)

Campaigning for the African American vote in Georgia, 1894

Creator: the State Democratic Party of Georgia Curriculum Subjects: Economics, 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:
Declation of Independence, John Trumbull, U.S. Capitol Rotunda

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+
Eleanor Roosevelt to Addie Frizielle, May 13, 1944 (GLC09544)

Eleanor Roosevelt’s four basic rights, 1944

Creator: Eleanor Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
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
Franklin D. Roosevelt to Arthur B. Spingarn, June 14, 1940 (GLC04477)

FDR urges NAACP support before WWII, 1940

Creator: Franklin D. Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Frederick Douglass to unknown, November 23, 1887 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Frederick Douglass on Jim Crow, 1887

Creator: Frederick Douglass Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
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:
"Life of George Washington--The farmer,"  by Jumius Brutus Stearns (LOC)

George Washington on the abolition of slavery, 1786

Creator: George Washington Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9
Harriet Beecher Stowe to Prince Albert, March 20, 1852. (GLC)

Harriet Beecher Stowe sends Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1852

Creator: Harriet Beecher Stowe Curriculum Subjects: Literature Grade Levels:
Thomas Jefferson to Marquis de Lafayette, June 16, 1792. (GLC08063p2)

Jefferson on the French and Haitian Revolutions, 1792

Creator: Thomas Jefferson Curriculum Subjects: Geography, Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels:
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

John Brown’s final speech, 1859

Creator: John Brown Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Barber, John W. (1798-1885) A History of the Amistad captives

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, Delay of execution for Nathaniel Gordon, Feb. 4, 1862. (GLC)

Lincoln on the execution of a slave trader, 1862

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
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:
The Hon. Blanche Kelso Bruce of Mississippi, ca. 1870 (Library of Congress)

Nominating an African American for vice president, 1880

Creator: James Milton Turner Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.... (London, 1794).

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+

President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, 1865

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
“Americans All” poster, War Manpower Commission, Washington DC, 1942. (GLC09530)

Preventing labor discrimination during World War II, 1942

Creator: War Manpower Commission Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Frederick Douglass to Thomas B. Pugh, November 17, 1870 (GLC01954)

Racism in the North: Frederick Douglass on “a vulgar and senseless prejudice,” 1870

Creator: Frederick Douglass Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Iowa joint resolution ratifying the 13th Amendment, March 30, 1866. (GLC02631)

Ratifying the Thirteenth Amendment, 1866

Creator: the Iowa General Assembly Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
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: John Means and R. E. Stanley Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Enoch M. Duley, “Two Hundred Dollars Reward!” broadside, KY (GLC06377.01)

Runaway slave ad, 1860

Creator: Enoch M. Duley Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Geography, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
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+
“178 Sugar and Cotton Plantation Slaves!” J. A. Beard & May, New Orleans, LA, 18

Slave auction catalog from Louisiana, 1855

Creator: J. A. Beard and May Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Issac & Rosa, Slave children from New Orleans, 1863 (GLC05111.02.1051)

Slave Children of New Orleans, 1863

Creator: Charles Paxson Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
John P. Zenger, New-York Weekly Journal, March 11, 1733[/4] (GLC08724p3)

Slave revolt in the West Indies, 1733

Creator: John Peter Zenger Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Geography, World History Grade Levels:
Census results, New York State, ca. 1800. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Slavery in the New York State census, 1800

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics 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+
Samuel Wood, Injured Humanity; Being A Representation of What the Unhappy Childr

The horrors of slavery, 1805

Creator: Samuel Wood Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Daniel Horsmanden, A Journal of the Proceedings . . . 1744. (GLC04502.01)

The New York Conspiracy of 1741

Creator: Daniel Horsmanden Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:

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:
J.W.C. Pennington to unknown, April 29, 1851 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

“The whole land is full of blood,” 1851

Creator: James W. C. Pennington Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: