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AFRS 168: Intro to African Diaspora

A course guide to AFRS 168

Special Collections and Archives

What is a primary source?

Locate relevant primary and historical sources at the Special Collections and Archives on the second floor of the University Library.

To learn about primary sources and how to use them in research, please see the Special Collections and Archives Tutorials. To view or learn about primary sources and other historical materials in our Special Collections and Archives, please use the University Library Finding Aid Database. For information on how to view these materials in person, see our Special Collections and Archives website.

For archives held at other California institutions, please search the Online Archive of California (OAC).

See Citing Archival Materials guide for creating citations for primary and other historical sources.

Finding Archival Collections in Other Libraries

Numerous archives, libraries, museums, and other repositories around the United States and world include archival materials in their collections which are open to visiting researchers. Archival materials are described as collections, and primarily consist of unpublished records created by a person, family, or organization in the conduct of their affairs, kept because of their ongoing value. Archival collections are usually accessed via finding aids, invetories, registers, or other descriptive tools that are similar to the Table of Contents in a book.

If you try the three methods described below and still can't find what you're looking for, email us for assistance.

Online Archive of California (OAC)

The Online Archive of California (OAC) is a searchable database that includes finding aids for archival and primary source collections at more than 200 libraries, special collections, archives, historical societies, and museums in California, including Special Collections & Archives at CSUN.

After searching, you can limit your search results by holding institution, so you can see everything on your topic at other repositories in Los Angeles (UCLA, Occidental, Loyola Marymount, etc.) that have contributed finding aids to the OAC.

online archive of california

Africana Primary Sources Online

For online (digitized) archival materials held at institutions in California, search Calisphere. For those held at institutions across the United States, search the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

Online resources for African American History:

Digital Collections Databases:

United States



Examples of Primary Sources

Primary sources are first-hand accounts of an event or time in history that has yet to be interpreted by another person.

Examples of primary sources include:

  • diaries, journals, letters, interviews, speeches, memos, manuscripts, and other first-person accounts
  • memoirs and autobiographies
  • official records such as government publications, census data, court reports, police records
  • minutes, reports, correspondence of an organization or agency
  • newspaper and magazine articles written during the time of the event
  • photographs, paintings, film and television programs, audio recordings which document an event
  • research such as opinion polls which document attitudes and thought during the time of an event
  • artifacts such as objects, tools, clothing, etc. of the time period or eve+

Examples of Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are scholarly monographs or articles that are based on primary source data and analyze, critique, report, summarize, interpret, or restructure that data. They can also be based on a reading of other secondary sources or a combination of primary source data and secondary sources.

Examples of secondary sources include:

  • reference books such as encyclopedias, bibliographies, handbooks, etc.
  • reviews
  • textbooks
  • most scholarly books
  • most journal and magazine articles

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