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Primary Sources

A collection of resources)

Firsthand accounts of an event or original documents are considered primary resources. Primary sources are excellent sources of information.



Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

Lesson Plans by Bridget Baudinet


The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was written, as the title page announces, by Frederick Douglass himself and published in 1845. More than 250 years later, the narrative still remains a powerful work, both for the vivid window it provides on the practice of slavery in the American South and for its eloquent defense of human rights. The narrative recounts Douglass’s life story from his birth to his escape from slavery around the age of 20. It reads both as a personal testimony and a carefully crafted argument against slavery. As such, Douglass's autobiography makes a strong supplement to both history and literature classes.

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Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford

Lesson Plans by Kristy Littlehale


Begun in 1630 and completed in 1647, William Bradford’s account of the Pilgrims’ journey, survival, and flourishing in the New World is considered by historians to be one of the most accurate historical accounts of the Plymouth Colony. The manuscript was passed down through the family, lost, and eventually recovered in England. It was not published until 1847. Bradford’s narrative is unique, because his focus was not on himself, as other writers trying to drum up excitement about the New World often did in their own writings. Instead, Bradford focused on how the Pilgrims, as a community, overcame many obstacles together, with their faith as the focus of their survival. Bradford wrote with a Providential view; that is, he saw their struggles and their accomplishments as being guided by the hand of God.

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The General History of Virginia by John Smith

Lesson Plans by Kristy Littlehale


Captain John Smith was many things: an adventurer, a decorated soldier, an explorer, a conqueror, a poet, a mapmaker, and an author. The General History of Virginia (originally The Generall Historie of Virginiais) detailed history of the planters’ years in Jamestown from 1607-1609.

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Speech in the Virginia Convention by Patrick Henry

Lesson Plans by Kristy Littlehale


In a time where loyalties were divided, and the colonists were unsure if war with England was the answer, those who believed in the idea of freedom from tyranny had to speak out and plead their case. This was done in popular pamphlets such as Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, and by delivering public speeches, such as Patrick Henry did to the Virginia Provincial Convention in 1775. While many were arguing for a compromise with the British King, Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine were arguing for a complete break - not only with the king, but with history.

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First 10 Amendments

Lesson Plans by Matt Campbell


With the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791, Americans were guaranteed specific rights and liberties that would protect their individualism and freedom and limit the power of government. The first 10 amendments outlined a collection of safeguards to ensure justice and liberty for every American citizen. The activities in this guide will allow a range of students to display their knowledge of what the Bill of Rights is and how it impacts their daily lives.

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Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Lesson Plans by Anna Warfield


The Holocaust is one of the blackest periods in world history. Extraordinary racism and hatred led to millions of needless deaths. Anne Frank was a Jewish girl whose family tried to escape persecution and imprisonment by hiding in secret rooms. Anne kept a diary of her experience in the “Secret Annexe” that shows the difficulties the Franks faced, as well as courage, wisdom, and hope in the face of adversity.

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Common Sense by Thomas Paine

Lesson Plans by Matt Campbell


Thomas Paine's political pamphlet Common Sense was an enormously impactful document of the Revolutionary Era. Because it was written and reasoned in a style that is easily understood, the pamphlet became wildly popular. It stoked the fires of revolution and provided intellectual ammunition to revolutionaries across the the colonies.

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The Declaration of Independence: A Primary Source Analysis

Lesson Plans by Richard Cleggett


American independence begins not only with war and protest, but the Declaration of Independence itself. The Declaration serves as both a official severing of ties with Great Britain for the American colonies, and also a list of grievances detailing why this separation is necessary. It is the culmination of what the colonists had protested for, and against, throughout the years leading up to the American Revolution. Written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, the Declaration is one of the most important and defining documents of our nation’s beginning.

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Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr

Lesson Plans by Kristy Littlehale


"Letter from a Birmingham Jail" challenged the complacent attitudes of the local clergymen during the Civil Right’s movement, as Martin Luther King, Jr. sat in a jail cell for his peaceful protests against injustice. This letter connects with the important concepts of Transcendentalism as laid out by Henry David Thoreau in his jail-time piece, Resistance to Civil Government, including nonconformity, intuition, and self-reliance.

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Emancipation Proclamation: A Primary Source Analysis

Lesson Plans by Richard Cleggett


The Emancipation Proclamation is an important document for students to study and understand in in relation to American History. The Proclamation itself serves as a window to the language and ideas of its time and how President Abraham Lincoln aimed to end the raging Civil War. The aftermath of the document still defines the US to this day.

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I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lesson Plans by Elizabeth Pedro and Kristy Littlehale


Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is a powerful message to the African American community to be strong and persevere during a time of great inequality in the United States.

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