Reliable Primary Sources

Primary sources are original records created at the time or after historical events occurred. Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, photographs, audio recordings, video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts from the time in order for it to be considered reliable. These sources are raw materials that help interpret the past. Not every primary source is completely reliable, because they all are biased to the creator’s beliefs or values.

The source in “Lynch Law in Georgia” will be discussed and evaluated to determine if the source of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, is reliable or if her own personal feelings made the document bias. This paper will examine a few key points in determining if the source is reliable, such as: did the recorder have firsthand knowledge of the event, was the source produced for personal or public use and finally if the information was recorded during the event or immediately after the event. Ida B. Wells- Barnett, did not have firsthand knowledge of the burning of Samuel Hose.

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She gathered her information form old newspaper clippings that reported the historical event. Wells-Barnett, also interviewed a detective who was assigned to investigate the burning of Hose. The author is not reporting first hand (or is first to record these immediately following an event), to be considered a reliable primary source. She is however, conveying the experiences and opinions of others which are, second hand sources and are considered reliable.

The document was produced to give the public facts. The source was meant to be read by people of all ages and races. The purpose of this pamphlet is to give the public the facts, in the belief that there is still a sense of justice in the American people, and that it will yet assert itself in condemnation of outlawry and in defense of oppressed and persecuted humanity.

Wells-Barnett used existing press stories and firsthand investigations to uncover the truth about lynching in which, she hoped to use this information to stop the senseless lynching of African Americans. To put a document out for such a large audience the source would have to be reliable, if not by firsthand knowledge, then by others who have the firsthand experience of the event.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, produced this documents a few short months after the April 23, 1899, burning of Samuel Hose. Wells-Barnett, produced her document two months later on June 20, 1899. Every source is bias; in this case the bias is due to the author’s past and race. Sources are influenced by the ideas of the person who created them. The creator’s age, religion, race and occupation are key factors when determining the reliability of a source.

The author is African American, which were the main ethnic group that faced lynching. She also had three men in her past that she was very close with that were lynched. These types of bias however, do not make the source unreliable. Although, the primary source was not written firsthand, it was obtained from firsthand sources (newspaper and investigation report).

The purpose of this document was to give the public facts on lynching and to stop the barbaric form of punishment. Finally, the document was created close to the actual event, within a two month time frame. With these answers one can conclude that this source is reliable.

This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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Reliable Primary Sources. (2016, Dec 06). Retrieved from