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.
G. Clifford Stamper Papers, 1943-1955.
Call no.: MS 463
George Clifford Stamper was a movie projectionist in the 4th Special Services during World War II. Born and raised in Somerville, Massachusetts, he enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 1, 1943 and participated in the European Theater from April 6, 1944 until December 12, 1945, when he was sent home and then honorably discharged in January 1946.
The papers of G. Clifford Stamper consist primarily of his incoming and outgoing letters during his training and service from 1943-1945. Correspondence is mostly with his family, but also includes his letters with neighbors, as well as friends that were serving. The collection contains, too, Stamper’s post-war letters received from 1946-1955. In addition, the outgoing letters of James C. Doyle, Jr. during his service in the U.S. Marines from 1958-1959 are a part of this collection. Doyle’s connection to Stamper is unclear.
- United States. Army Service Forces. Special Services Division
- World War, 1939-1945
- World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Czechoslovakia
- World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--France
- Doyle, James C
- Stamper, G. Clifford (George Clifford), 1912-2005
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
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.
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
Noah Lyman Strong Account Book, 1849-1893.
Call no.: MS 187
Operator of a sawmill and gristmill in Southampton, Massachusetts, later an owner of tenements and other real estate in Westfield, Massachusetts. Includes lists of gristmill and sawmill products, the method and form of payment (cash, barter for goods, or services such as sawing or hauling), real estate records, and miscellaneous personal records (school, clothing, board, and travel expenses for his niece and nephew; accounts for the care and funeral of his father-in-law and the dispensation of his estate; a Strong family genealogy; town of Westfield agreements and expenses; a list of U.S. bonds that Strong bought; and money lent and borrowed, among others).
- Barter--Massachusetts--Southampton--History--19th century
- Boardinghouses--Massachusetts--Westfield--History--19th century
- Clapp, Anson--Estate
- Fowler, Henry
- Grist mills--Massachusetts--Southampton--History--19th century
- Guardian and ward--Massachusetts--History--19th century
- House construction--Massachusetts--Westfield--History--19th century
- Millers--Massachusetts--Southampton--Economic conditions--19th century
- Railroad companies--United States--History--19th century
- Sawmills--Massachusetts--Southampton--History--19th century
- Southampton (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Strong family
- Strong, Noah Lyman, 1807-1893--Finance, Personal
- Westfield (Mass.)--History--19th century
- Westfield (Mass.)--Social conditions--19th century
- Strong, Noah Lyman
Sunderland Town Records, 1620-1912.
Call no.: MS 409 mf
Although the Connecticut River Valley town of Swampfield was set off from Hadley in 1673, European settlement there was decimated by King Phillip’s War and with continued turmoil in the region, the town was not resettled by Europeans until after the turn of the eighteenth century. Officially incorporated as the town of Sunderland on Nov. 12, 1718, the town’s economy has been rooted in agriculture, taking advantage of the valley’s rich soils.
The five reels of microfilm of Sunderland’s records include vital records and information on town meetings, militia, and town finances.
- Sunderland (Mass.)--History
Types of material
Thayer Family Industries Ledger, 1847-1855.
Call no.: MS 238 bd
The Thayer family operated a small manufacturing complex on the Deerfield River in Charlemont, Massachusetts. Businesses included a sawmill, a foundry, a shop for the manufacture of axes and edged tools, and a tannery. Ledger documents their businesses and reflects the exchange economy of rural Massachusetts.
- Axe industry--Massachusetts--Charlemont--History--19th century
- Barter--Massachusetts--Charlemont--History--19th century
- Charlemont (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Charlemont (Mass.)--Rural conditions--19th century
- Foundries--Massachusetts--Charlemont--History--19th century
- Kingsley, Edmond
- Manufacturing industries--Massachusetts--Charlemont--History--19th century
- Sawmills--Massachusetts--Charlemont--History--19th century
- Tanneries--Massachusetts--Charlemont--History--19th century
- Thayer family
- Thayer, Alonzo, 1817-
- Thayer, Ruel, 1785-
- Thayer, Ruel, 1824-
- Tinsmiths--Massachusetts--Charlemont--History--19th century
Types of material
- Account books
Sue Thrasher Poster Collection, ca.1975-2010.
Call no.: MS 861
The activist, writer, and educator, Sue Thrasher became involved in the civil rights movement while a student at Scarritt College in 1961. A native of rural West Tennessee, Thrasher was drawn to the local chapter of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee shortly after arriving on campus, and in 1964, she helped found the Southern Students Organizing Committee, serving as its first executive director and taking part in the “white folks project” during Mississippi Summer. As a stalwart of the freedom movement and its historian, she joined the staff at the Highlander Center in 1978, helping to organize their archives and conducting oral histories. After more than twenty years of social activism in the South, Thrasher came to UMass Amherst to earn a doctorate in Educational Policy and Research, and from 1997 until her retirement in 2013, she worked as Partnership Coordinator at Five Colleges Incorporated, linking faculty with public school districts in western Massachusetts. Among her several works on the civil rights movement is the collaborative volume Deep in Our Hearts: Nine White Women in the Freedom Movement (2000).
A visual record of Sue Thrasher’s involvement in movements for social justice, the collection includes dozens of posters reflecting international liberation movements (Mozambique, Palestine, Central America), Cuba, the antiwar movement, campaigns for literacy in Nicaragua, the International Council on Adult Education (Chile and Bangladesh), and activities at the Highlander Center (benefit concerts by Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, and Sweet Honey in the Rock). The collection also includes two Nicaraguan masks collected by Thrasher.
Types of material
Sidney Topol Papers, 1944-1997.
Call no.: MS 374
An innovator and entrepreneur, Sidney Topol was a contributor to several key developments in the telecommunications industries in the latter half of the twentieth century. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts (1947) and an engineer and executive at Raytheon and later Scientific-Atlanta, Topol’s expertise in microwave systems led to the development of the first effective portable television relay links, allowing broadcasts from even remote areas, and his foray into satellite technologies in the 1960s provided the foundation for building the emerging cable television industry, permitting the transmission of transoceanic television broadcasts. Since retiring in the early 1990s, Topol has been engaged in philanthropic work, contributing to the educational and cultural life in Boston and Atlanta.
The product of a pioneer in the telecommunications and satellite industries and philanthropist, this collection contains a rich body of correspondence and speeches, engineering notebooks, reports, product brochures, and photographs documenting Sidney Topol’s forty year career as an engineer and executive. The collection offers a valuable record of Topol’s role in the growth of both corporations, augmented by a suite of materials stemming from Topol’s tenure as Chair of the Electronic Industries Association Advanced Television Committee (ATV) in the 1980s and his service as Co-Chair of a major conference on Competitiveness held by the Carter Center in 1988.
- Boston (Mass.)--Social conditions--20th century
- Cable television
- Electronic Industries Association
- Raytheon Company
- Topol, Sidney