Consists of letters from Du Bois to various members of the Bell family, the earliest written in September 1926 to Katherine Bell and the latest written in December 1960 to Thomasina Bell Fitzroy. These letters offer a unique perspective of Du Bois's personal life.
The collection is open for research.
Background on Katherine Bell Banks
Katherine Bell Banks was born to Thomas Bell, M.D., and Pearl Bell in 1912. They moved from their home in Tennessee to Brooklyn, New York in 1916. There they shared a two family house with W.E.B. Du Bois and his family. Dr. Bell and Dr. Du Bois developed a strong friendship during this time and the families remained close for years. The Bells settled in Newark, New Jersey in 1922. Dr. Du Bois remained a frequent guest in the Bells' house, and was godfather to the Bells' youngest daughter, Thomasina.
Katherine enrolled at Montclair University in 1929 after her graduation from Barringer High School in Newark. She received her B.A. in French in 1934 and a year later entered Columbia University where she obtained her M.A. in French. Banks taught at Talladega University in Alabama for seven years and then returned to her alma mater, Barringer High School. She retired from Newark's Vailsburg High School in 1980.
The Bell collection consists primarily of fifteen letters and one telegram, all written by Du Bois to various members of the Bell family. The earliest was written in September 1926 to Katherine Bell and the latest was written in December 1960, three years before Du Bois's death, to Thomasina Bell Fitzroy.
These letters offer a unique perspective of Du Bois. Banks writes, "He was seen as a complicated and controversial figure. He seemed austere-and by his own evaluation shy and unrevealing about his private life." She continues, "Lacking is much information about his circle of friends-close friends that is. His letters help to fill that void."
The collection also includes two photographs and an invitation to Du Bois's seventieth birthday celebration at Atlanta University. The photographs feature Yolande Du Bois in her high school graduation dress and the Du Bois and Bell families at their home in Newark, New Jersey.
Purchased from Katherine Bell Banks in October 2004.
Processed by Matthew Hansbury, December 2004.
All material in the collection has been scanned and are available online through our digital repository, Credo.
Letters in this collection were published in the following book by Katherine Bell Banks describing her family's relationship with W.E.B. Du Bois:
Banks, Katherine Bell and Robert C. Hayden. William E.B. Du Bois, Family and Friendship: Another Side of the Man. Littleton, Mass.: Tapestry Press, Ltd., 2004.
For materials related to W.E.B. Du Bois, see:
Digitization of the Banks Papers was funded by grants from the Verizon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Cite as: Katherine Bell Banks Papers (MS 429). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.