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.
- 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 hsitory 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
- For more detailed information, see our research guide on Labor, work, and industry
- 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.
Storrsville Lyceum Debating Society Minutebook, 1842-1846.
Call no.: MS 016 bd
Club that met weekly or bi-weekly in Storrsville, Massachusetts, to debate questions of local, national, and international interest including religion, abolition and slavery, human nature, penal reform, the lure of the West, intemperance, and war and peace. Single minutebook includes two versions of the constitution, proposed and debated questions, the teams, the outcome, and notations of any additional activities that took place during the formal meetings.
- Ciceronean Debating Club (Dana, Mass.)
- Dana (Mass. : Town)--Intellectual life--19th century
- Debates and debating--Massachusetts--Dana (Town)--History
- Storrsville (Dana, Mass. : Town)--Intellectual life--19th century
- Storrsville Lyceum Debating Society (Dana, Mass.)--Archives
Types of material
- Minute books
Watchmaker's Account Book, 1882-1883.
Call no.: MS 623 bd
The mid-century success of the Waltham Watch Company set the stage for a period of innovation and corporate ferment in the manufacture and distribution of watches in the United States. As watchmakers and technologies spread and new companies sprouted and split at a rapid pace, Springfield emerged as a center for the production of high quality, mass produced watches. Perhaps best known among the large local corporations, the Hampden Watch Company was established in 1877 from the New York Watch Company and was bought out in turn by the Dueber Watch Company and relocated a decade later.
The unidentified owner of this slender account book maintained itemized records of income and expenses for a relatively small watchmaking concern in Springfield between May 1882 and September 1883. Most of the trade consisted of sales of accoutrements and repair work.
- Springfield (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
Types of material
- Account books
Westhampton Town Records, 1779-1900.
Call no.: MS 799
Originally settled by Europeans in 1762, the town of Westhampton, Massachusetts, was separated from adjacent Northampton and incorporated in September 1778. Situated in the western reaches of Hampshire County, it was principally an agricultural town until the later twentieth century, producing apples, other fruit, and maple sugar, with only minor industry. The town still retains its rural character: a century after incorporation, the population had grown to just over 500, and nearly 1,500 by 2000.
The Westhampton collection provides an extensive record of public life and local governance in a typical small Hampshire County town. Spanning from 1779, just after the date of incorporation, through the turn of the twentieth century, the collection includes extensive records of town meetings, including warrants, agendas, and summaries; records of the Overseers of Poor, the schools, militia service, and parish; materials on roads and highways; and a large quantity of financial records.
- Town meetings--Massachusetts--Westhampton
Westhampton Congregational Church Records, 1817-1970.
Call no.: MS 806
The Congregational Church in Westhampton, Mass., was formally organized on Sept. 1, 1779, with the installation of a young graduate of Yale, Enoch Hale, brother of the patriot Nathan Hale. At the end of Hale’s fifty years in the Westhampton pulpit, the church experienced a crisis that resulted in the separation of a portion of the membership as the Union Church, led by the charismatic evangelical preacher John Truair. The churches were reunited in 1850.
The records of the Westhampton Congregational Church document nearly two hundreds of religious life in a rural western Massachusetts community. Beginning with the founding of the church in 1779, the collection include a nearly unbroken record of church activities including thorough records of membership, transfers, marriages, baptisms, deaths, and church discipline, and for the latter century, a complete record of church finances. Of particular note is a volume recording the activities of the secessionist Union Church, 1829-1849.
- Congregational churches--Massachusetts--Westhampton
- Hale, Enoch, 1753-1837
- Second Great Awakening
- Truair, John, 1780-1845
- Westhampton (Mass.)--Religious life and customs
- Union Church (Westhampton, Mass.)
Types of material
- Account books
Worthington (Mass.) Tavern Account Book, 1826-1854.
Call no.: MS 421 bd
By the turn of the nineteenth century, the Hampshire County town of Worthington, Massachusetts, was a significant crossroads on the Boston-Albany Turnpike, belying its small size. The population in Worthington peaked at barely over 1,000 in 1810, and declined slowly thereafter, although it remained an active stopover on the road for many years.
This standard double column account book provides a concentrated record of financial and other transactions in the antebellum period, probably associated with a tavern in Worthington, Mass. Although the ledger’s keeper is unidentified, it records an assortment of odd jobs filing saws, smoking meat, lending horses, carting, pasturing cattle, and tending sheep, along with the sale of significant quantities of beer and cider and a regular stream of hard brandy and rum. There are records as well of providing meals and, in one instance, caring for prisoners and their keepers overnight (p. 21). Most of the clients who can be positively identified were residents of Worthington (e.g., Persis Knapp, Chauncy B. Rising, Nathan Searl, Shubal Parish, Elisha H. Brewster, Addison D. Perry, Merritt Hall, and Otis Boies), however others are noted as wayfarers, passing through from towns such as Whately or Hadley. Clients settled their accounts with a motley mixture of cash, goods, and labor.
- Taverns (Inns)--Massachusetts--Worthington
- Worthington (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
Types of material
- Account books
Yarn Finishers Union (Fall River, Mass.) Records, 1919-1922.
Call no.: MS 006
The Yarn Finishers Union was one of several autonomous craft bodies affiliated with the Fall River-based American Federation of Textile Operatives (originally known as the National Amalgamation of Textile Workers). Active in several shops — including Durfee Mills, Tecumseh Mills, Union Belt Co., O.B. Wetherell and Son, and Troy Cotton and Woolen Manufactory — the Yarn Finishers included membership from different segments of the work force, including rollers, quillers, and harness markers.
This slender collection documents two years of labor activism by the Yarn Finishers Union in Fall River, Mass. The minutebook begins in May 1919 as the Yarn Finishers voted to strike over low and unequal wages, particularly those to “girls,” and includes references to elections, financial issues such as the proposition to institute a minimum wage scale, and to settling disputes. The minutes continue through the end of a much quieter year, 1922. The second volume consists of a record of union dues collected, arranged loosely by craft.
- Fall River (Mass.)--History
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Textile workers--Labor unions--Massachusetts
- American Federation of Textile Operatives
Types of material
Young Women's City Club Records, 1931-1981.
Call no.: MS 045
Known as Girl’s City Club until 1954, the Young Women’s City Club was a non-sectarian, self-governing, and largely self-supporting club in Northampton, Massachusetts, that developed educational and recreational opportunities for young women through programs, social events, volunteer services, and fund-raising activities. The club met regularly under the auspices of the People’s Institute until November 1979 when their rooms at James House were taken over by the Highland Valley Elder Service and the club relocated to the People’s Institute.
The records of the Young Women’s City Club document the growth and activities of the club from 1939 to 1981, with the exception of the decade 1961 to 1971. Consisting of photocopies of originals still held by the People’s Institute, the collection includes minutes of council and business meetings and scrapbook pages.
- Women--Societies and clubs--Massachusetts
- Young Women's City Club (Northampton, Mass.)
CIA on Trial Project Records, 1985-1989.
Call no.: MS 508
In 1986 demonstrations against CIA recruitment on the University’s campus led by activists Abbie Hoffman and Amy Carter, daughter of former President Jimmy Carter, resulted in the takeover of two school buildings and more than sixty arrests. The CIA on Trial Project was a group established in Amherst to support the individuals arrested as well as to raise funds for their legal defense.
News clippings covering the protests, fliers, memos from the University’s administration, and correspondence with Chancellor Duffey capture the mood on campus during and after the protests.
- CIA on Trial Project (Amherst, Mass.)
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--History
Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies Records, 1982-1989.
Call no.: MS 264
Established in 1983 by a group of faculty and administrators in the Five College community who perceived an urgent need for increased faculty dialogue about issues involving peace, security, and the nuclear arms race. Expanded in 1984 with the support of a grant from the Ford Foundation, PAWSS continued as a multidisciplinary program that sought to engage faculty in a consideration of various perspectives on world security and to assist them with curriculum development involving these issues.
This small collection includes circular letters and flyers produced by PAWSS describing the group’s activities as well as materials used by faculty during summer institutes and to develop curriculum.
- Nuclear disarmament--History--Sources
- Peace movements--Massachusetts
- Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies (Mass.)