Skip to Main Content

Religion in the American South: Finding Primary Sources

Evaluating Primary-Source Sites

Many libraries and organizations are making digital materials available online.

To find these collections, use a search string with terms relevant to your topic in Google or another search engine. For example:

digital collection site:edu "african methodist episcopal church"

You can also try the same search limiting to site:org rather than site:edu BUT:

Be careful!

EDU = educational institution
ORG = organization, which can mean almost ANY kind of noncorporate organization. If you aren't familiar with the organization, do some research on it! Who are they? What do they promote? Are they reliable?

* * * * * *

Questions to ask when you are assessing online primary-source collections:

  • Who is the author or creator of the page/site? Is there an institution involved? What is the name of the institution?
  • What are the credentials of the author or institution (what qualifies the author or institution to present these sources objectively? Do they represent a university? A library? An individual?)
  • Who sponsors the site? Is there information about funding?

Use Google, Wikipedia, & other sources to research the authors, organizations, or institutions responsible for the page and  its funding.

Don't just trust the About page!

  • What is the purpose of the site - To inform? To entertain? To sell you something? To argue for a certain point of view?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Are the sources cited? Where did the author(s) get the information?
  • Can the information on the page be verified with other sources? 
  • How current is the information? How recently has the website been updated?**
    (**This question may be less important for historians looking for historical primary sources)

Reference Mining: Using Your Secondary Sources to Help Find Primary Sources

Once you start finding good secondary sources (books, articles) on your topic, it can be very useful to look at those sources' citations to see what primary sources they cite. Often this can help you identify and locate relevant primary sources, or at least identify types of primary sources that you may want to seek out for your particular topic.

Citations in secondary sources can also help you find other relevant secondary sources. 

If you find a good secondary source, you can also look that source up in Google Scholar (works for both books and articles!) and see a list of books/articles that have cited that source by clicking the "Cited by" link under the citation.  For information about connecting Google Scholar with the library’s online holdings, see this research guide:

Selected Primary-Source Databases available at GSU

These primary-source databases are available to GSU affiliates.

If you are accessing them from off campus, you will be asked to sign in with your Campus ID and password.

Selected Freely Available Digital Collections

Documentary Films / News Video

Current News Sources

Select "Newspapers" in the Databases by Subject dropdown menu on the library's homepage to get a listing of all of our newspaper databases
(both current and historical).

***Please note: The library no longer subscribes to Nexis Uni.***

Try these databases for current newspaper coverage:

Historical Newspapers

See also our Newspaper Holdings research guide for more information about current and historical newspaper holdings.

Other Historical Periodicals

Local Archives

GSU Library Special Collections and Archives: Located on the 8th floor of Library South. Collection areas are Southern Labor, Popular Music, Women's Collections, Georgia Government Documentation Project, University Archives, Rare Books, and Photographs.

Atlanta History Center Archives (Kenan Research Center): Collects primary and secondary source materials in all formats conveying the history of Atlanta and the culture of the American south.  Besides Atlanta materials, collection strengths include the Civil War, southeast family history, architecture & decorative arts, and garden history.

Atlanta University Center Archives and Special Collections: Collections primarily document the African American experience through civil rights, race relations, education, literature, visual and performing arts, religion, politics, and social work.

Georgia Archives: Run by the Archives & History Division of the Georgia government - collects, manages, and preserves official records of Georgia from 1732 to the present. Materials include vital records, land records, federal and state census records, photographs, and more.

Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture and History: A division of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System - the nation's second largest archives specializing in the history of African Americans and Africans in the Diaspora. 

The William Breman Jewish Heritage & Holocaust MuseumThis cultural center and archive collects artifacts and information about Jewish history.  Areas of strength include the Holocaust and the experience of Jews in the Southeast, particularly Georgia and Alabama.

Emory University's Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL): Collections span more than 800 years of history — with particular depth in modern literature, African American history, and the history of Georgia and the South.

Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library of the University of Georgia: Includes the Rare Book Collection, Historical Manuscripts, and the Georgiana Collection. Subject interests include Georgia, book arts, theater, music, history, literature, journalism and genealogy.

Jimmy Carter Library & Museum: Part of the Presidential Libraries system administered by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

National Archives - Southeast Region, Atlanta: Regional library administered by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Georgia Historical Society: Oldest and most distinguished collection of materials related exclusively to Georgia history in the nation. Locations in Atlanta and Savannah.