Learn It Part 2

There are several steps in analyzing the relationship between a primary and secondary source.

You need to ask the following questions as you examine a source of information:

  • Who is the author and how did he or she gain this information about the topic?
  • What is the author’s purpose in writing the text?
  • What is the author’s point of view?
  • What information is included in the text?

Read the following excerpts from primary and secondary sources on Frederick Douglass. Then, review the questions that follow.

Primary Source: Excerpt From Life of an American Slave 1845

I lived with Mr. Covey one year. During the first six months, of that year, scarce a week passed without his whipping me. I was seldom free from a sore back. My awkwardness was almost always his excuse for whipping me. We were worked fully up to the point of endurance.

Source: University of Virginia: Life of an American Slave 1845Opens a new window



Secondary Source: Excerpt From Frederick Douglass

When Frederick was about sixteen, he was placed under the control of Edward Covey, a small farmer reputed to have the ability to break a slave’s spirit. Frederick was whipped repeatedly, and very nearly was “broken” in spirit until one day he fought back – defensively, not striking Covey, because that would likely have gotten him severely punished, possibly killed – but by simply fending off the farmer’s attack. The contest lasted about two hours, when Covey called it off, and he never attempted to beat Frederick again.

Source: Frederick Douglass Honor Society: Frederick DouglassOpens a new window


The final step is to compare the information in both sources to see if the primary source supports or contradicts the secondary source.

Review the following video to learn how to compare the primary and secondary sources of information on Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass

> Text version for video