A heads-up from my friend, MaryBeth.
Thanks to a partnership between the LOC, and the Schools of Education at the College of William and Mary and the University of Kentucky, the search for primary sources to include in U.S. History documentaries became a little bit easier.
The group compiled a set of copyright-free documentary kits on eleven different topics, with more coming soon. Each set includes primary source documents and media, and focuses around a research question. For example, the Civil Rights kit asks the question: "How did the actions of young people after the Brown decision help continue the struggle for civil rights?" whereas the kit on Chinese immigration asks "How was a national identity constructed by the American reaction to Chinese immigration?"
Personally, I think their questions need some work. I would prefer to see research questions forcing students to develop an argument within their documentaries, rather than just reporting. Simply removing the "how" from the questions above would improve them. "How" merely requires a list, while "did" asks students to take a stance and defend it with evidence. Much higher level of thinking!
Even better, of course, would be to work with students to develop their own research questions.
Nevertheless, the kits are useful, if somewhat limited in topics at the moment; one hopes they will continue to develop more and more kits!