Website Review

Documenting the American South

Penn State University

Documenting the American South (DocSouth) is an initiative sponsored by the University Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. DocSouth provides users with digitized primary source materials about American history and culture from a Southern perspective. The site is designed to inform teachers, students and researchers on a wide-variety of topics on publications and titles that can be used for in-depth study. The materials are part of several Southern collections in libraries at UNC at Chapel Hill including the Southern Historical Collection, the North Carolina Collection, the Rare Book Collection and printed materials about the Southeast in the Davis Library. DocSouth has sixteen special collections that include primary sources about Southern history, literature and culture. The site explains each collection and what type of documents are available. The collections are arranged in alphabetical order and users can select author, title or subject to find source materials. Also, some materials are cross-referenced with other subjects to provide more information about a topic.

Each item is indexed, catalogued and assigned Library of Congress subject headings. This approach allows users to select a letter of the alphabet to browse a list of subject headings. These headings are categorized as a topical heading or a name heading. Topical headings list objects or concepts in grammatical forms. Name headings represent places, proper names or corporate entities. These headings are followed by topical subdivisions which provide more specific information. Although DocSouth focuses on the history of Southern states, the site offers a U.S. map for users to identify specific materials about other states. The site also defines terms such as American South, Confederate States of America and the Mason-Dixon Line. DocSouth also includes a brief overview of North Carolina from its beginning as one of the original thirteen colonies. The North Carolina Experience and North Carolinians and the Great War are the two collections that focus on North Carolina. There are other notable collections that teachers can utilize for lesson plans. First Person Narrative of the American South provide primary sources like diaries, memoirs and letters from laborers, women and slaves who document their perspective of the American South. The Church in the Southern Black Community chronicles how African Americans adopted Protestant Christianity in the South. The Library of Southern Literature includes literary works by Southern authors from the colonial period to the beginning of the twentieth century.

A highlight of DocSouth is that under the K-12 link, there are a variety of topics and information for teachers to use in the classroom. Topics such as Colonial North Carolina; Civil War and Reconstruction; and The Great Depression and World War II provide educators with primary sources for teaching in the classroom. During 2020, other topics added to the site include religion and the Civil Rights Movement; black student activism in the 1920s and 1930s; and African American involvement in World War I. Overall, DocSouth is a user-friendly site that offers an abundance of primary sources on a variety of topics. Users are welcome to donate materials and contribute to information about topics of interest. The site could benefit from providing a Resources page that direct users to other sites, libraries and special collections to offer a more comprehensive view of historical topics.

Reviewed by Nancy Murray, George Mason University

How to Cite This Source

"Documenting the American South," in in World History Commons, [accessed December 7, 2021]
“A highlight of DocSouth is that under the K-12 link, there are a variety of topics and information for teachers to use in the classroom. ”