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AAS 380 / AMS 382: Public Policy and the U.S. Racial State

Using secondary sources to find primary sources

The quest for primary sources can often start from reading a good academic book on your topic.  In addition to the sources listed below, you may find others of interest by checking the footnotes, endnotes and bibliography of a published secondary source.

Finding primary sources in library catalogs

​Start with a keyword search in the Catalog.  If you find something that looks useful, look at the detailed view of the catalog record and try to identify the "subject" assigned. For many topics, there's an official term used in all library catalogs, like:

  • Public housing
  • Discrimination in criminal justice administration--United States
  • Police misconduct—United States—Prevention
  • Drug control—United States
  • Racism in education—United States
  • Criminal justice, Administration of—Political aspects—United States
  • African American high school students--Education--United States


Then, do the Subject search with the authorized Subject heading.  You may wish to include one of these words as a keyword or a subject:

  • statistics
  • surveys
  • sources


  • To find the papers of an individual, search for that person as an author, e.g. Johnson, Charles Spurgeon
  • To find the records of an organization or government body, use the name of the organization as an author e.g. National Urban League
  • To find a U.S. government document, do an Advanced Search that combines your keywords with the Author "United States"

To find works published in a particular time and place, explore the search options. It is usually possible to limit your search by date, language, or location of publication. 

Please also explore the shelves in the African American Studies Reading Room, which has a number of compilations of primary source documents.  Some examples include:


Digital Primary Sources - general

Digital Primary Sources - government documents

Digital Primary Sources - newspapers, periodicals, and ephemera

Digital Primary Sources - papers of political and social movements

Digital Primary Sources - economic and social data

Manuscript collections in Princeton University Library

Princeton University Library has a number of collections of manuscripts that reflect African American history.  You may search the list of Finding Aids at

Some collections of note include: