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Social change

Anti-war sit-in, Whitmore Hall, ca.1971

Anti-war sit-in, Whitmore Hall, ca.1971

Building upon the activist legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives collects primary materials relating to individuals and groups devoted to the political, economic, spiritual, and social transformation of American society. Our intent in taking such a broad collecting scope is to view social change as a totality, rather than as isolated movements and to document how ideas about one set of social issues informs other issues, and how social causes cross-pollinate, organizationally and conceptually. By preserving a record of these activities, SCUA makes it possible for future scholars, activists, and members of the community to continue to engage with the ideas that have motivated so many.

Although our interests extend to any endeavors that reflect the efforts of individuals and groups promote social change, the collections in SCUA provide particularly valuable documentation of the movements for peace, social justice, and racial equality, environmentalism, labor activism, intentional communities, and gay rights.

View our brochure on documenting social change (pdf).

 

Significant collecting areas

  • Antinuclear movement
    • New England has been a hotbed of activity for the antinuclear movement, spawning groups such as the Clamshell Alliance, the Citizens Awareness Network, the Renewable Energy Media Service, and the Musicians United for Safe Energy.
  • Antiracism and civil rights
    • The Du Bois Papers document the lifelong commitment of W.E.B. Du Bois to addressing issues of racial and social injustice in the twentieth century, but SCUA houses a number of other collections that address various aspects of “the problem of the twentieth century,” and the varied approaches to its resolution. See also our research guide for African American history.
  • Community organizations and charities
    • SCUA houses the records of civic organizations involved in relief work, community assistance, and social justice.
  • Environmentalism
    • Collections relating to the history of the environment in New England and of environmentalism in the broad sense. SCUA is also interested in documenting the history of land use, organic farming and sustainability, and similar topics.
  • Intentional Communities
    • Communes seemed to spring up everywhere in New England during the 1960s, but communes of various sorts have been part of our landscape for two centuries. In both its printed and manuscript collections, SCUA documents a wide variety of approaches to communal living and the cultural legacy of communes. The Famous Long Ago Archive focuses intensively on documenting a cluster of related communes in Massachusetts and Vermont, including the Montague Farm, Packer Corners, Wendell Farm, and Tree Frog Farm.
  • Labor activism
  • Peace Collections
    • Among the department’s collections documenting peace and antiwar movements, SCUA holds the records of several regional peace centers, the AFSC Western Massachusetts branch, and a number of peace activists.
  • Political activism
    • As part of its collections on political life and culture, SCUA houses collections for individuals and organizations working within the political system or against it, and several relating to Socialism and Communism and Cold-War era Eastern Europe.
  • Social Justice
    • Social justice is a catchall term that captures the complex relationships between and among a wide variety of movements for economic justice, social and civic equality. In addition to the other collecting areas listed elsewhere on this page, SCUA documents gay rights, Animal rights, prison issues, and social reform in its various guises.

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Swados, Harvey, 1920-1972

Harvey Swados Papers
1933-1983
49 boxes (23 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 218

The author and social critic Harvey Swados (1920-1972) was a graduate of the University of Michigan who embarked on a literary life after service in the merchant Marine during the Second World War. His first novel, Out Went the Candle (1955), introduced the themes to which Swados would return throughout his career, the alienation of factory workers and the experience of the working class in industrial America. His other works include a widely read collection of stories set in an auto plant, On the Line, the novels False Coin (1959), Standing Fast (1970), and Celebration (1975), and a noted collection of essays A Radical’s America (1962). His essay for Esquire magazine, “Why Resign from the Human Race?,” is often cited as inspiring the formation of the Peace Corps.

The Swados collection includes journals, notes, typewritten drafts of novels and short stories, galley proofs, clippings, and correspondence concerning writings; letters from family, publishers, literary agents, colleagues, friends, and readers, including Richard Hofstadter, Saul Bellow, James Thomas Farrell, Herbert Gold, Irving Howe, Bernard Malamud, and Charles Wright Mills; letters from Swados, especially to family, friends, and editors; book reviews; notes, background material, and drafts of speeches and lectures; financial records; biographical and autobiographical sketches; bibliographies.

Subjects
  • Authors, American--20th century--Biography
  • Jewish authors--United States--Biography
  • National Book Awards--History--20th century
  • Socialists--United States--Biography
Contributors
  • Bellow, Saul
  • Farrell, James T. (James Thomas), 1904-1979
  • Gold, Herbert, 1924-
  • Hofstadter, Richard, 1916-1970
  • Howe, Irving
  • Malamud, Bernard
  • Mills, C. Wright (Charles Wright), 1916-1962
  • Swados, Harvey, 1920-1972

Aczel, Tamas

Tamas Aczel Papers
ca.1950-1994
18 boxes (26 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 031

Born on Dec. 1, 1921, to a middle class family, Tamas Aczel became affiliated with leftist politics in Hungary prior to the Second World War, joining the Party after. With degrees in literature from Peter Pazmany University (BA 1948) and Eotvos Lorent University (MA 1950), Aczel quickly established a reputation as a literary talent, publishing seven novels and winning the Kossuth Prize (1949) and Stalin Prize for Literature (1952). During this period, he became disenchanted with the Communist government and during the short-lived rebellion in 1956, he served as press secretary for Prime Minister Imre Nagy. When Nagy was deposed, Aczel escaped through Yugoslavia to Austria and then England. In 1966, he was invited to teach modern European literature at UMass, where he became Director of the MFA program (1978-1982). Aczel died in 1994, leaving his wife Olga A. Gyarmati (an Olympic gold medalist in the long jump, 1948) and son Thomas.

The Aczel collection consists primarily of numerous drafts of several novels, including The Hunt (1990), Illuminations (1981), and Ice Age (1965), along with other writing, translations, some student essays, and autobiographical material. Some material is in Hungarian.

Subjects
  • Authors--Massachusetts
  • Poets--Massachusetts
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of English
Contributors
  • Aczel, Tamas

Berkeley, Roy

Roy and Ellen Perry Berkeley Papers
ca.1954-2011
2 boxes (3 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 972

Born in New York City in 1935, Roy Berkeley’s eclectic creative career began while working his way through Columbia University (BA, 1956) as an editor for the New York Post and pseudonymous author of 14 pulp novels, and continued after graduation, working for two years at the height of the Cold War in U.S. intelligence. A self-taught guitarist, he became a stalwart of the folk music scene in Greenwich Village, performing at the Gaslight regularly and at the first Newport Folk Festival in 1959, and eventually recording three albums. In 1966, Berkeley married Ellen Perry, a writer and editor for Progressive Architecture and Architectural Forum, and one of the few women architectural critics of the time. Their time in New York City ended in 1971, however, when Ellen’s job as an editor at an architectural magazine ended. Using Roy’s winnings from his appearance on the television show Jeopardy, the couple relocated to Shaftsbury, Vt., where they led a freelance life as writers, editors, teachers, and lecturers. Roy was eventually appointed deputy Sheriff in own and became a member of the state’s Fish and Wildlife Board. After a struggle with cancer, Roy Berkeley died in 2009 at the age of 73.

The bulk of the Perry Papers consists of Roy’s research files and drafts of a never-completed history of the folk music scene, along with some correspondence, notes, and ephemera that includes both editions of his Bosses Songbook, a satirical send-up of the People’s Songbook. The collection also contains a sampling of the exceptional range of Ellen’s writing on topics from architecture to cats, cookery, to grieving.

Gift of Ellen Perry Berkeley, April 2017
Subjects
  • Architecture
  • Folk music
Contributors
  • Berkeley, Ellen Perry

Bernhard, Michael H.

Michael H. Bernhard Solidarity Collection
ca.1975-1989
3 boxes (4.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 575

A member of the Department of Political Science at Penn State University, Michael Bernhard specializes in the comparative history of institutional change in East Central Europe and the political economy of democratic survival and breakdown. Since receiving his doctorate from Columbia University in 1988, Bernhard has written extensively on various aspects of the democratic transition in Poland and East Germany.

The Bernhard Collection contains photocopies and some original materials of underground publications by the Solidarity Movement in Poland, most of which were crudely published and illegally distributed. The collection also includes a series of posters for Solidarity candidates during the first post-Communist election.

Language(s): Polish
Subjects
  • NSZZ "Solidarność" (Labor organization)
  • Poland--History--1945-
  • Underground press publications--Poland
Contributors
  • Bernhard, Michael H

Boschen, Allan C.

Allan C. Boschen Esperanto Collection
1852-2015
ca.750 items (18 linear feet)
Call no.: RB 028
Image of Esperanto travel book, 1927
Esperanto travel book, 1927

A constructed language developed by a Polish physician, L.L. Zamenhof, and first published in 1887, Esperanto is the most widely spoken auxiliary language in the world. Fundamentally utopian in origin, Esperanto is a simplified and highly rationalized language derived from a pastiche of languages, primarily European. By creating a universal second language, Zamenhof hoped that Esperanto would help transcend national and cultural boundaries and thus promote peace and understanding in a fractious world. Allan Boschen, an engineer with General Electric in Pittsfield, was a student and teacher of Esperanto and longtime officer with the Esperanto Society of New England.

The Esperanto book collection includes instructional materials in the language from around the world along with a diversity of imprints ranging from novels and poetry to travel books, histories and biographies, political writings, materials on China and Vietnam, children’s literature, and even a cookbook. We expect to add to the collection in future.

Subjects
  • Esperanto
  • Ido
  • Languages, Artificial

Brinsfield, Mark

Mark Brinsfield Poster Collection
1979-1994
53 items (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 854
Image of Wer Kohl wählt, wählt Reagan
Wer Kohl wählt, wählt Reagan

Mark Taylor Brinsfield studied languages and law in Europe before receiving his MA in European Studies at the University of Exeter. His research has included work in the history of multiracial people in post-World War II Southeast Asia. Brinsfield currently lives in Northampton, Mass.

The posters in the Brinsfield Collection represent a cross-section of West German political campaigning during the decade leading up to reunification. Focused primarily on national, rather than regional elections, the collection includes representative work from the major left- and right-leaning political parties (CDU and RCDS, SDU, the Greens) as well as a few posters addressed at major political issues, including the antinuclear and antiwar movements.

Language(s): German
Subjects
  • Antinuclear movements--Germany
  • Antiwar movements--Germany
  • Christlich-Demokratische Union Deutschlands
  • Germany--History --1945-1990
  • Germany--Politics and government--1945-1990
  • Grünen (Political party)
  • Ring Christlich-Demokratischer Studenten
  • Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
Contributors
  • Staeck, Klaus
Types of material
  • Posters

Chalfen family

Chalfen Family Papers
ca.1890-2011
51 boxes (76.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 770

Born into a Jewish family in Khotyn, Bessarabia (now Ukraine), in 1888, Benjamin Chalfen emigrated to United States as a young man, arriving in New York City in 1910 before making his way to Boston. Taking work as a clerk with the Roxbury Crossing Steamship Agency, he married a fellow Russian immigrant, Annie Berg in 1914 and, after their divorce a few years later, married a second time. Benjamin and Annie’s son, Melvin (1918-2007), studied Forestry at Massachusetts State College (BA 1940) and Yale (MF 1942) before enlisting in the Army Air Corps in Aug. 1942. Moved to active duty in 1943 as a communications specialist, he rose to the rank of Lieutenant. After he returned home, Mel met and married a recent Smith College graduate, Judith Resnick (1925-2011), with whom he raised three sons. The couple settled into a comfortable life in the Boston suburbs, where Mel carved out a successful career as a home inspector and educator while Judith became well known as a supporter of the arts and as one of the founders of Action For Children’s Television (1968), an important force in promoting quality television programing for children.

A massive archive documenting three generations of a Jewish family from Boston, the Chalfen family papers contain a rich body of photographs and letters, centered largely on the lives of Melvin and Judith Chalfen. The Chalfens were prolific correspondents and the collection includes hundreds of letters written home while Mal and Judy were in college and while Mel was serving in the Army Air Corps during the Second World War — most of these in Yiddish. The thousands of photographs cover a broader span of family history, beginning prior to emigration from Bessarabia into the 1960s. Among many other items of note are rough drafts of a New Deal sociological study of juvenile delinquency and the impact of boys’ clubs in the late 1930s prepared by Abraham Resnick (a Socialist community organizer and Judith’s father); materials from the progressive Everyman’s Theater (early 1960s); and nearly three feet of material documenting Judy Chalfen’s work with Action for Children’s Television.

Gift of the Chalfen family, 2011.
Language(s): Yiddish
Subjects
  • Action for Children's Television
  • Jews--Massachusetts--Boston
  • Massachusetts State College--Students
  • Smith College--Students
  • World War, 1939-1945
Contributors
  • Chalfen, Benjamin
  • Chalfen, Judith, 1925-2011
  • Chalfen, Melvin H. (Melvin Howard), 1918-2007
Types of material
  • Photographs

Communist Party of Massachusetts

Communist Party of Massachusetts Collection
1932-1957
1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 538

A branch of the Communist Party of the United States of America, the Communist Party of Massachusetts enjoyed strong popularity during the 1930s and 1940s, organizing the textile and other manufacturing industries.

This small collection is comprised of a miscellaneous assemblage of fliers, broadsides, and ephemera issued by the Communist Party of Massachusetts and its affiliates from the mid-1930s through the repression of the McCarthy era. Originating mostly from Boston, the items in the collection center on significant themes in Communist thought, including opposition to Fascism and militarism, labor solidarity against capital, and elections. A small number of items relate to Party-approved cultural productions, including plays and gatherings to celebrate Lenin or the Russian Revolution. Many items are associated with Otis A. Hood, a perpetual candidate for public office on the Communist Party ticket who became a target for McCarthy-era repression in the mid-1950s.

Acquired from Eugene Povirk, 2008
Subjects
  • Antiwar movements--Massachusetts
  • Communists--Massachusetts
  • Elections--Massachusetts
  • World War, 1939-1945
Contributors
  • Communist Party of Massachusetts
Types of material
  • Broadsides
  • Fliers

Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963

W.E.B. Du Bois Papers
1803-1984
328 boxes (168.75 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 312
Image of W.E.B. Du Bois
W.E.B. Du Bois

Scholar, writer, editor of The Crisis and other journals, co-founder of the Niagara Movement, the NAACP, and the Pan African Congresses, international spokesperson for peace and for the rights of oppressed minorities, W.E.B. Du Bois was a son of Massachusetts who articulated the strivings of African Americans and developed a trenchant analysis of the problem of the color line in the twentieth century.

The Du Bois Papers contain almost 165 linear feet of the personal and professional papers of a remarkable social activist and intellectual. Touching on all aspects of his long life from his childhood during Reconstruction through the end of his life in 1963, the collection reflects the extraordinary breadth of his social and academic commitments from research in sociology to poetry and plays, from organizing for social change to organizing for Black consciousness.

Acquired from Shirley Graham Du Bois, 1973
Subjects
  • African Americans--Civil rights
  • African Americans--History--1877-1964
  • Crisis (New York, N.Y.)
  • Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963--Views on democracy
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
  • Pan-Africanism
  • United States--Race relations
Contributors
  • Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963
Types of material
  • Photographs
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