The Power of Primary Sources

“Free and critical minds can emerge only by a return to the source – primary sources. A free and critical mind takes nothing for granted and is not intimidated by “authorities” who frequently may be more confused than the general public.”

Dr. Asa Hilliard

Primary sources refer to first person accounts, original documents, physical artifacts, and face-to-face communication with persons who possess expert knowledge on a subject. These records represent our link to understanding history and the people who created it. Credible historians and researchers rely heavily on primary sources. The problem is not the sources, but in the interpretation of them. These unscientific interpretations are often replete with the author’s bias, racism, and lack of understanding.

Even though the sources are considered primary, one should still exercise caution. There are several key points to consider:

  • the motives of the author
  • the author’s frame of reference and knowledge of the subject matter
  • the strategies the author uses to convey his/her message
  • preconceived notions and values of the author
  • the author’s ethnicity, cultural orientation and national affiliation
  • degree of objectivity

Keep in mind that modern researchers are attempting to explain foreign cultures, religious beliefs, and historical events that occurred hundreds or thousands of years ago. For anyone, finding “proof” is difficult, at best, even for the early Greeks. Plutarch admits that:

The Greek observer was not usually in a position to understand Egyptian religion from the inside; an initial obstacle was his ignorance of Egyptian. Sometimes an equation or explanation was based on a misunderstanding of an Egyptian phenomenon, or a modification introduced in a Greek parallel. Each deviation, whether radical or slight, contributed to a remove from the true picture.

(from Bernal’s, Black Athena, Vol. 1)

Primary source information is now readily accessible through the Internet and other sources. When studying history, begin your pursuit with primary sources. Learn from those who were directly involved in making history, and much less from the so-called scholars who wrote about it countless years later.


  • Kofi Adebayo

    Kofi Adebayo began his search for truth 40 years ago while majoring in philosophy in college. Even as a child, Kofi realized the world subsists on a web of intricate lies promulgated primarily by "intelligent" political, business, and religious leaders. He began with many years of independent study of African history, culture, and religion. Even after decades of discovery, Kofi believes he has only taken a sip from a wellspring of Black thought and achievement.

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