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.
Mary B. Stinson Collection, 1974-1981.
Call no.: MS 824
Throughout the 1970s, Mary B. Stinson (formerly Lindblom) was an active member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in California and served as a delegate to the First National Women’s Conference in Houston.
The collection includes several ephemeral objects reflecting Stinson’s activism including IWY pendant necklaces and an ERA license plate frame, along with published reports and articles relating to the IWY and a 1979 NOW conference in California.
- Equal rights amendments
- Feminism--United States
- International Women's Year Conference
- National Organization for Women
- Women's rights--United States
- Stinson, Mary B.
Levi Stockbridge Papers, 1841-1878.
Call no.: RG 003/1 S76
Born in Hadley, Mass., in 1820, Levi Stockbridge was one of the first instructors at Massachusetts Agricultural College and President from 1879-1882. Known for his work on improving crop production and for developing fertilizers, Stockbridge was an important figure in the establishment of the college’s Experiment Station. After filling in as interim President of MAC in 1879, he was appointed president for two years, serving during a period of intense financial stress. After his retirement in 1882, he was named an honorary professor of agriculture.
The Stockbridge Papers include correspondence, personal notebooks, travel diary, journal as a farmer (1842-1845), writings, lectures, notes on experiments, clippings, photocopies of personal and legal records, and biographical material, including reminiscences by Stockbridge’s daughter. Also contains auction records, notebook of Amherst, Massachusetts town records (1876-1890), and printed matter about Amherst and national elections, including some about his candidacy for Congress on Labor-Greenback party ticket 1880. Also contains papers (13 items) of Stockbridge’s son, Horace Edward Stockbridge (1857-1930), agricultural chemist and educator, including a letter (1885) from him to the elder Stockbridge, written from Japan while he was professor at Hokkaido University.
- Amherst (Mass.)--Politics and government--19th century
- Greenback Labor Party (U.S.)--History
- Japan--Description and travel--19th century
- Legislators--Massachusetts--History--19th century
- Massachusetts Agricultural College
- Massachusetts Agricultural College--Students
- Massachusetts Agricultural College. President
- Massachusetts Cattle Commission
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1865-1950
- Stockbridge family
- Stockbridge, Horace E. (Horace Edward),1857-1930
- Stockbridge, Levi, 1820-1904
Types of material
Daniel M. J. and Joyce Stokes Papers, 1984-1996.
Call no.: MS 661
From 1987 through early 1988, Daniel and Joyce Stokes published Into the Night, “a newsletter for freedom for political prisoners held in the United States.” Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., this simply-produced publication offered updates and commentary on Americans imprisoned for politically-motivated acts. Reflecting both the legacy of 1960s radicalism and the resurgent activism associated with U.S. imperialism in Central America, Into the Night offered news on the Ohio 7 sedition trial, the MOVE organization, and the fate of Plowshares war resisters.
The Stokes collection contains correspondence from subscribers and supporters of Into the Night, fleshing out their political philosophy and the conditions of imprisonment. Drawn from groups including the MOVE organization, the United Freedom Front, Black Liberation Army, and Plowshares, the correspondents include Ramona Africa, Alberto Aranda, Philip Berrigan, Marilyn Buck, Carl Kabat, Ray Luc Levasseur, Ruchell Cinque Magee, and Carol Manning. The collection also includes copies of other radical publications and a complete run of Into the Night itself.
- African American prisoners
- African American radicals
- Anti-imperialist movements
- Into the Night
- MOVE (Group)
- Ohio 7
- Political prisoners
- United Freedom Front
- Africa, Ramona
- Aranda, Alberto
- Berrigan, Philip
- Buck, Marilyn
- Gelabert, Ana Lucia
- Hernandez, Alvaro L
- Kabat, Carl
- Levasseur, Ray Luc
- Magee, Ruchell Cinque
- Stokes, Daniel M. J.
- Stokes, Joyce
Types of material
Stonewall Center Records, 1962-2005.
Call no.: RG 030/2/6
Following a series of homophobic incidents on the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1985, the Program for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Concerns was established as an administrative center in the Office of Student Affairs. Later renamed after the notorious riots in New York, the Stonewall Center has provided the campus and surrounding community with cultural and educational programming through speakers, films, video and book library, Speakers Bureau on LGBTQ issues, referrals and support, advocacy and community outreach.
The records of the Stonewall Center include documentation of day to day operations, including phone logs, memos, and budget information, as well as posters and press releases for events, publications, campus and external reports, training manuals, surveys, newspaper clippings, and ephemera such as banners, tee-shirts, and buttons.
- Gay college students--Massachusetts
- Gays--Services for
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Students
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Program for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Concerns
- Stonewall Center
- Yeskel, Felice
Harvey Swados Papers, 1933-1983.
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.
- Authors, American--20th century--Biography
- Jewish authors--United States--Biography
- National Book Awards--History--20th century
- Socialists--United States--Biography
- 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
Traprock Peace Center Records, 1979-2008.
Call no.: MS 080
The Traprock Peace Center is a grassroots organization based in Deerfield, Massachusetts, that trains and educates people locally and globally in matters relating to disarmament and nonviolence. In 1980, the Center organized the first successful attempt in the United States to get a nuclear weapons moratorium referendum on the ballot, and the Center has served as a focal point for organizing on a wide array of issues in peace and social and environmental justice.
The records of Traprock Peace Center include correspondence, campaign materials (resolutions, organizing committee records, legislative packets), program reports, newsletters, newsclippings, and posters relating to the nuclear freeze campaign and many subsequent initiatives. Recent additions to the collection document the group’s work to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; these later additions are open for research, but are not processed.
- Antinuclear movement--Massachusetts
- Deerfield (Mass.)--Social conditions--Sources
- Nuclear disarmament--History--Sources
- Political activists--Massachusetts
- Traprock Peace Center
UAW District 65 Collection, ca.1985.
Call no.: MS 320
The decision of clerical and technical workers at Boston University to organize with District 65 of the UAW was as rooted in the labor movement as it was in the womens movement. By the early 1970s, office workers at B.U. were dissatsified with working conditions that included — among other grievances — sexual harassment and a classification system that did not value “women’s work.” In 1979 after an intense struggle with the administration, B.U. finally recognized the union and signed their first contract.
The collection includes a printed history and videotape documenting unionization activities at Boston University’s Medical Campus.
- Boston University. Medical Campus
- Collective bargaining--Professions--Massachusetts--Boston
- Collective labor agreements--Medical personnel --Massachusetts--Boston--History
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- United Automobile, Aircraft, and Vehicle Workers of America. District 65
Types of material
UBCJA Massachusetts State Council Records, 1892-1980.
Call no.: MS 015
One of the largest building trade unions in the U.S., the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America was established in 1881 by a convention of carpenters’ unions. An early member of the American Federation of Labor, the Brotherhood began as a radical organization, but beginning in the 1930s, were typically aligned with the conservative wing of the labor movement.
The records of the Massachusetts State Council of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America contain reports and other information generated during the union’s annual conventions as well as copies of the constitution and by-laws, handbooks, and histories of the union.
- Carpenters--Labor unions
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
University of Massachusetts Amherst. Alumni, 1871-2007.
Call no.: RG 050
This record group contains materials that document alumni and alumni activities throughout the history of the Amherst campus. Included are annual reports, constitutions and by-laws, board and committee minutes, cash books and financial statements, correspondence, alumni directories, class lists, obituaries, biographies, bibliographies of alumni writings, photographs, alumni periodicals, brochures from alumni events, newsclippings, handbooks and manuals, reunion and dinner programs, scrapbooks, memorabilia and artifacts.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Alumni
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Alumni Office
Types of material