W.E.B. Du Bois Library (UMass Amherst)

W.E.B. Du Bois Library, ca. 1973On October 5, 1994, the Board of Trustees University of Massachusetts, voted to name the main library at the Amherst campus in honor of W.E.B. Du Bois. Trustee Document T94-096 states:“As we march into the Twenty First Century we feel that it is time to go beyond the colorline and appropriately name the tower library in honor of one of the finest heroes, not only of Massachusetts but of the world—William Edward Burghardt Du Bois.”

The decision, however, was not made without some controversy on campus. Two years earlier students, faculty, and others in the UMass community moved that the building be named for Du Bois, demands that were met with some resistance by the administration, who wished to reserve the right to name the library for a future generous donor. Early in 1994 the W.E.B. Du Bois Petition Coalition formed, uniting the goal of naming the library tower for Du Bois with the goals of increasing enrollment of ALANA (African American, Latin American, Asian American, and Native American) students to 20% and increasing the availability of scholarships to fund students who were economically challenged. This activity culminated in a rally on campus in March, and by April 1994, Chancellor Scott endorsed the plan to name the library for Du Bois.

Not everyone in the UMass community supported the idea of naming the library for Du Bois. A small, but vocal, group of students objected to the action on the basis that Du Bois was both a Communist and anti-American. These students pointed to the fact that late in life Du Bois publically joined the Communist Party and left the U.S. permanently when he moved to Ghana at the age of 93. Many of these arguments accused Du Bois of renouncing his U.S. citizenship—he did not, although he did accept Ghanian citizenship and was a dual citizen of both countries when he died. The arguments did not address the continued cloud of suspicion that Du Bois lived under after his acquittal on charges of subversive activities in 1951, or the belief that his freedom to travel was under threat during the time leading up to his relocation.

Despite the controversy, the Trustees approved the action in the fall of 1994, and almost two years later the library was officially dedicated as the W.E.B Du Bois Library. Dedication events ran from February 20-23, 1996, and included student and faculty teach-in activities on the life and times of W.E.B. Du Bois; a concert of spirituals and readings from The Souls of Black Folk, arranged by Professor Horace Boyer; a lecture by David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize winning author of W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1909; a dedication ceremony in Special Collections and Archives; and a convocation celebrating the life of W.E.B. Du Bois, with the awarding of honorary degrees to Herbert Aptheker, Rachel Robinson, and Randall Robinson.

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about/w.e.b._du_bois_library.txt · Last modified: 2013/12/18 13:24 (external edit)
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