Skip to Main Content

Asian American Studies *

Primary Sources Overview

Primary sources are original documents from a given historical period, as opposed to secondary sources, such as journal articles, which provide information about and analysis of events and primary sources.

Primary sources can take many forms, including: newspaper articles from the period, diaries, letters, photographs, autobiographies, posters, advertisements, original manuscripts, speeches, poems, oral histories, interviews, laws, transcripts, congressional hearings, pamphlets, and more.
Primary sources defined in more detail.


Start by doing some background reading:  The more you know about key events, people, laws, and especially terminology used during the time period you are researching the more successful your research will be.

Searching for primary sources in USC Libraries' catalog:
Use search terms that reflect the types of material you’re looking for, such as: sources, diaries, pamphlets, correspondence, speeches, manuscripts, personal narratives, interviews, etc.

For example:  japaenese americans AND sources

                          asian americans AND interviews


Asian Amerian Primary Sources

Asian Americans and Seattle's Civil Rights History  Provides access to oral histories, photographs, maps, documents and more

Asian Nation: The Landscape of Asian America  Run by a scholar at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, this site aims to serve as "an authoritative, one-stop information resource and sociological exploration of the historical, demographic, political, and cultural issues that make up today's diverse Asian American community."

Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation  AIISF's mission is to promote a greater understanding of Pacific Coast immigration and its role in shaping America’s past, present and future.  AIISF has created an online repository of stories entitled “Immigrant Voices."

Digital History - Asian Voices  Categories include: Asia Discovers America, Asians and the Making of America, World War II and Asian Americans, The Newest Immigrants

Calisphere  Provides access to primary resources covering California history from 1780-present. Includes a themed collection on Asian Americans and items related to the Chinese Exclusion Act and over 200 artifacts relating to the 442nd Regional Combat Team.

Survey of Race Relations  This resource resulted from an investigation, launched in the early 1920s and headquartered at Stanford University, into the economic, religious, educational, civic, biological, and social conditions among Chinese, Japanese, and other non-European residents of the US and Canadian Pacific Coast. The holdings consist primarily of life-history questionnaires; in addition, there are numerous personal reflections, financial records, conference reports, meeting notes, bibliographies, printed materials and more.

Ethnic Newswatch (login required)
Coverage spans 1959-present
Includes articles from journals, magazines, and newspapers from ethnic and minority presses. Ethnicities include: African American/Caribbean/African; Arab/Middle Eastern; Asian/Pacific Islander; European/Eastern European; Hispanic; Jewish; Native People.

New America Media (NAM) is the country's first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. NAM is dedicated to bringing the voices of the marginalized - ethnic minorities, immigrants, young people, elderly - into the national discourse. Can browse stories by ethnic group (Asian, South Asian). Also includes polls and the National Online Directory of Ethnic Media

Chinese American Primary Sources

Additional information can be found at the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California website. 

Japanese American Primary Sources

Korean American Primary Sources

South Asian Primary Sources

Southeast Asian Primary Sources

Legal & Legislative History

Large primary source collections covering a range of topics and time periods

These mega-sites are good places to start your search for primary sources