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African American history

Founders of the Niagara Movement, ca.1905

Founders of the Niagara Movement, ca.1905

The acquisition of the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois in 1972 established SCUA as a center for research in African American history. In subsequent years, UMass has supported publication of three volumes of Du Bois’ correspondence and SCUA has digitized the papers and made them freely available on the internet while serving as a resource for many dozens of scholarly articles and books. SCUA continues in its efforts to build around the Du Bois collection, adding other important printed and manuscript materials both in African American history and in the history of efforts to promote social change.

Every February, SCUA and the Du Bois Department of Afro-Americans Studies at UMass Amherst commemorate Du Bois’s birthday by co-sponsoring a public colloquium on Du Bois and his legacy. Our lecturers have included distinguished scholars such as Herbert and Bethina Aptheker, Randolph Bromery, Clayborne Carson, Arnold Rampersad, and David Levering Lewis.

Significant collections (view all)

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Mission and history

Mission

Cattle judging at Mass. Agricultural College
Judging cattle at Mass. Agricultural College

SCUA inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials for the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond, contributing to the vital conversation between past and future. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, services, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry; the production, exchange, and preservation of knowledge; and joy in learning.

Department history

African dancers
African dancers
From the Horace Mann Bond Papers

In 1931, nearly half a century after Librarian Henry Hill Goodell first authorized the permanent retention of the official records of Massachusetts Agricultural College, the Library established a College History Collection. Containing official records of the university’s administrators and faculty and reflecting the life of its students, the College History Collection grew steadily until in 1953, the Library dedicated a room named in honor of Dean William L. Machmer to serve as the first true home of the University Archives.

Goodell’s foresight in assembling the College archives coincided roughly with the university’s first efforts to build a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. As early as 1868 — just one year after the arrival of the first students — the college accepted the donation of twenty scarce volumes on bee culture from the apiculturist (and state Adjutant General) Henry K. Oliver. By the time the college issued its first library catalog in 1875, rare books were a small, but notable part of the collections, closely focused on the primary academic interests of the early college: agriculture, horticulture and botany, and the natural sciences. Included among the Library’s earliest acquisitions were the first London edition of William Bartram’s Travels Through North and South Carolina (1792), François Augier de Marigny’s The History of the Arabians (London, 1758), and early bee manuals by John Keys, The Practical Bee-Master (London, 1780) and The Antient Bee-Master’s Farewell (London, 1796) — both courtesy of Oliver. Each of these volumes remains part of the collections today.

David Axelrod, Class of 1965
David B. Axelrod, ca.1980, Class of 1965, poet, author of The Man who Fell in Love with His Chicken (1980)

From these beginnings, the collection of rare books and manuscripts has co-evolved with the university and its academic programs. In 1973, the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski marked an expansion of scope beyond into personal papers and organizational records of historical significance beyond the narrow confines of the university, and the arrival of the papers on W.E.B. Du Bois in that same year marked a turning point. The rare book and manuscript collections were merged with the University Archives in the early 1990s to form the current Department of Special Collections and University Archives.

SCUA’s initial foray online came with a simple page on the library’s website in 1997, and by 2007, it had evolved into the UMarmot project, one of the earliest efforts to use freely-available software to create a comprehensive online archival catalog. SCUA launched its online digital repository, Credo in 2011, with the generous support of the Verizon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. Available free to all researchers, Credo is now a robust and heavily used presence on the internet, containing hundreds of thousands of pages of content and dozens of complete collections, including every item in the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois and Horace Mann Bond.

Mile markers

Each of the library’s million-volume milestones has been celebrated by the addition of a special volume to SCUA’s collections:

One millionth volume:
Jonathan Edwards, A careful and strict enquiry into the modern prevailing notions of that freedom of will; which is supposed to be essential to moral agency, vertue and vice, reward and punishment, praise and blame. Boston: S. Kneeland, 1754.
SCUA’s copy of this classic theological work on Free Will from the New Light minister from Northampton belonged to Rev. John Cleaveland of Ipswich, Mass., one of the subscribers. It is signed and dated by Cleaveland in several locations.
Two millionth volume:
Phillis Wheatley, Poems on various subjects, religious and moral. London: A. Bell, 1773.
A classic of American literature written by a young woman enslaved in Boston, and the first book published by an African-American woman. Gift of Randolph W. Bromery.
Three millionth volume:
James Baldwin, Gypsy and other poems, with etched portraits by Leonard Baskin. Northampton, Mass.: Gehenna Press, 1989.
When Baldwin, a former faculty member at UMass Amherst, died unexpectedly, he was working with the great printer Leonard Baskin on a special volume of unpublished poems. Celebrating SCUA’s strengths in African American history literature and reflecting the fine-printing heritage in Massachusetts, SCUA’s copy includes a signed portfolio of etchings of Baldwin by Baskin, each signed. It is one of fifty copies bound specially by Daniel Gehnrich in leather and paste paper, made by Babette Gehnrich, over boards, and laid into a cloth traycase. Also laid in are Baskin’s proof, 1989, and touched proof, 1989, of two of the portraits. Gift of Lisa Baskin.
Four millionth volume:
The proclamation of emancipation of the President of the United States, to take effect January 1st, 1863. Boston: John Murray Forbes, 1862.
The first separate printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, this volume was printed in miniature so that Union army troops in the south could more easily distribute it.

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United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. Massachusetts State Council

UBCJA Massachusetts State Council Records
1892-1980
2 boxes (1 linear feet)
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.

Subjects
  • Carpenters--Labor unions
  • Labor unions--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America

United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. Springfield District Council

UBCJA Springfield District Council Records
1885-1973
40 boxes (23 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 110

The first local of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners to be founded in western Massachusetts was chartered in 1885 as Springfield Local 96, followed in quick order by locals in Holyoke (390) and Chicopee (685). With the pace of unionization picking up at the turn of the century, the Springfield District Council was established in 1906 and played an immediate role in coordinating collective bargaining, apprenticeship, and work rules in the local construction industry. Although Holyoke carpenters formed their own District Council soon thereafter, the logic of consolidation and a unified voice eventually prevailed. The Springfield locals consolidated as Local 32 in 1968, which in turn merged with the Holyoke District Council in 1973 to form Local 108.

The records of the Springfield District Council of the UBCJA includes strong documentation of the rise of unionization among carpenters in the Connecticut River Valley from the 1880s through 1980s. The collection includes by-laws, correspondence, and subject files of the Springfield District Council along with minutes, membership records, financial records, contracts, agreements and trials, and some correspondence for Locals 96 (Springfield), 685 (Chicopee), 177 (Springfield), 222 (Westfield), and 32 (Springfield).

Subjects
  • Carpenters--Labor unions
  • Labor unions--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America

Abbe, Edward H.

Edward H. Abbe Papers
1828-2004
22 boxes (28.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 736
Image of Ed Abbe in Bora Bora, 1987
Ed Abbe in Bora Bora, 1987

Born in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1915 and raised largely in Hampton, Va., Edward Abbe seemed destined to be an engineer. The great nephew of Elihu Thomson, an inventor and founding partner in General Electric, and grandson of Edward Folger Peck, an early employee of a precursor of that firm, Abbe came from a family with a deep involvement in electrification and the development of street railways. After prepping at the Rectory and Kent Schools, Abbe studied engineering at the Sheffield School at Yale, and after graduation in 1938, accepted a position with GE. For 36 years, he worked in the Industrial Control Division in New York and Virginia, spending summers at the family home on Martha’s Vineyard. After retirement in 1975, he and his wife Gladys traveled frequently, cruising both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Ranging from an extensive correspondence from his high school and college days to materials relating to his family’s involvement in engineering, the Abbe collection offers an in depth perspective on an educated family. An avid traveler and inveterate keeper, Ed Abbe gathered a diverse assemblage of letters, diaries, and memorabilia relating to the history of the Abbe, Peck, Booth, Gifford, and Boardman families. The collection is particularly rich in visual materials, including albums and photographs, depicting homes, travel, and family life over nearly a century.

Gift of Edward Abbe, Mar. 2012
Subjects
  • Abbe family
  • Boardman family
  • Booth family
  • Electrical engineers
  • General Electric
  • Gifford family
  • Kent School--Students
  • Peck family
  • Rectory School--Students
  • Yale University--Students
Contributors
  • Abbe, Edward H
  • Abbe, Gladys Howard
  • Abbe, William Parker
  • Peck, Edward F
  • Peck, Mary Booth
Types of material
  • Diaries
  • Letters (Correspondence)
  • Photographs

Clark, John G., d. 1972

John G. Clark Papers
1960-1969
3 boxes (3.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 499
Image of John G. Clark and H. P. Hood milk truck
John G. Clark and H. P. Hood milk truck

With a life long interest in politics, John G. Clark of Easthampton, Massachusetts worked on a number of campaigns before running for office himself. He ran for state senator in 1958, but lost in the Democratic primary. Two years later he ran again, this time for state representative of the 3rd Hampshire District, and won. Clark served in the State House of Representative for eight years until he was appointed clerk of the district court in Northampton and chose not to run for reelection.

While this collection is small, it is packed with campaign materials, letters, position statements, speeches, and press releases that together offer a good sense of the political climate in Massachusetts during the 1960s, especially issues of local concern for Hampshire County. Four letters from a young neighbor written while serving in Vietnam provide a personal account of the war.

Subjects
  • Massachusetts--History
  • Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Contributors
  • Clark, John G., d. 1972

Foucher, Lynnette E.

Lynnette E. Foucher Cookbook Collection
1902-2000
429 items (8 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 684
Image of 1929 cookbook
1929 cookbook

Assembled by Lynnette E. Foucher, this collection consists chiefly of cookbooks produced by food companies between the 1920s-1970s. These cookbooks reflect the changing role of women in the home as well as new food trends and innovative technology. Taken together, the collection offers a glimpse into the way meal preparation changed in the U.S. during the second half of the twentieth century and how this change transformed the way we eat today.

Subjects
  • Convenience foods--United States--History--20th century
  • Cooking, American--History--20th century
  • Cooking--Social aspects
  • Diet--United States--History
  • Food--Social aspects
  • Women consumers--United States--History
  • Women in advertising--United States--History
Contributors
  • Foucher, Lynette E
Types of material
  • Cookbooks

Heath, Gordon, 1918-1991

Gordon Heath Papers
1913-1992
44 boxes (22.75 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 372 and 372 bd
Image of Gordon Heath, Paris
Gordon Heath, Paris

A multi-talented performer, the African American expatriate Gordon Heath was variously a stage and film actor, musician, director, producer, founder of the Studio Theater of Paris, and co-owner of the Parisian nightclub L’Abbaye. Born in New York City, Heath became involved in acting as a teenager and enjoyed a career that spanned post-World War II Broadway to the Black Arts Movement of the 1970s. In addition to his many roles on film and stage, he and his partner Lee Payant enjoyed success as recording artists in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Heath collection includes personal and professional correspondence, scrapbooks containing photos and clippings from assorted television and film productions in addition to songs, poetry, and reviews of plays or playbills from productions he attended. The Papers also contain art work, sheet music, personal and production photographs, and drafts of his memoirs.

Subjects
  • Abbaye (Nightclub : Paris, France)
  • African American actors--France--Paris--History
  • African American singers--France--Paris--History
  • African Americans in the performing arts--History
  • African-American theater--History--20th century
  • Baldwin, James, 1924-
  • Chametzky, Jules
  • Dodson, Owen, 1914-
  • Expatriate musicians--France--Paris--History
  • Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967
  • Musicians--United States--History
  • Nightclubs--France--Paris--History
  • Paris (France)--Intellectual life--20th century
  • Payant, Lee--Correspondence
  • Primus, Pearl
  • Rive gauche (Paris, France)--Intellectual life--20th century
  • Studio Theater of Paris
  • Theater--Production and direction--France--Paris--History
Contributors
  • Abramson, Doris E
  • Heath, Gordon, 1918-1991
Types of material
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
  • Scripts
  • Sheet music
  • Sketches

New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse League

New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse League Records
1893-1977
9 boxes (5.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 331

When Charles Marsters founded the Boston Lacrosse Club in 1913, the club was the only one in New England to play teams from outside of the region. Under Marsters’s leadership, however, participation in the sport rose steadily at both the high school and collegiate level, helping establish New England as one of the centers of the American game. In 1935, he and Tom Dent founded the New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse League (NEILL) to continue to build the sport.

The NEILL records document the growth of lacrosse from informal club team play to a more regulated, interscholastic and intercollegiate varsity sport. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, minutes, and agendas kept by co-founder Charles Marsters and a handful of other NEILL officers, but with material documenting the growth of the sport at UMass Amherst from the 1950s onward and the addition of women’s lacrosse as a collegiate sport. The collection also includes some printed material (including rulebooks), news clippings, and photographs.

Subjects
  • College sports--New England
  • Lacrosse for women--United States
  • Lacrosse guide
  • Lacrosse--New England--History
  • School sports--New England
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Sports
Contributors
  • Boyden, Frank L. (Frank Learoyd), 1879-1972
  • Marsters, Charles E
  • New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse League

Oglesby, Carl, 1935-2011

Carl Oglesby Papers
ca.1965-2004
96 boxes (67.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 514
Image of Carl Oglesby, 2006. Photo by Jennifer Fels
Carl Oglesby, 2006. Photo by Jennifer Fels

Reflective, critical, and radical, Carl Oglesby was an eloquent voice of the New Left during the 1960s and 1970s. A native of Ohio, Oglesby was working in the defense industry in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1964 when he became radicalized by what he saw transpiring in Vietnam. Through his contacts with the Students for a Democratic Society, he was drawn into the nascent antiwar movement, and thanks to his formidable skills as a speaker and writer, rose rapidly to prominence. Elected president of the SDS in 1965, he spent several years traveling nationally and internationally advocating for a variety of political and social causes.

In 1972, Oglesby helped co-found the Assassination Information Bureau which ultimately helped prod the U.S. Congress to reopen the investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. A prolific writer and editor, his major works include Containment and Change (1967), The New Left Reader (1969), The Yankee and Cowboy War (1976), and The JFK Assassination: The Facts and the Theories (1992). The Oglesby Papers include research files, correspondence, published and unpublished writing, with the weight of the collection falling largely on the period after 1975.

Gift of Carl Oglesby, 2006-2008
Subjects
  • Assassination Information Bureau
  • Gehlen, Reinhard, 1902-1979
  • Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963--Assassination
  • King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
  • Pacifists
  • Political activists
  • Student movements
  • Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
  • United States--Foreign relations
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975
  • Watergate Affair, 1972-1974
Contributors
  • Oglesby, Carl, 1935-2011
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