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.
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
Alternative Energy Coalition, ca.1975-1985.
Call no.: MS 586
A product of the vibrant and progressive political culture of western Massachusetts during the early 1970s, the Alternative Energy Coalition played a key role in the growth of antinuclear activism. In 1974, the AEC helped mobilize support for Sam Lovejoy after he sabotaged a weather tower erected by Northeast Utilities in Montague, Mass., in preparation for a proposed nuclear power plant, and they helped organize the drive for a referendum opposing not only the proposed plant in Montague, but existing plants in Rowe, Mass., and Vernon, Vt. Forming extensive connections with other antinuclear organizations, the AEC also became one of the organizations that united in 1976 to form the Clamshell Alliance, which made an art of mass civil disobedience.
The AEC Records provide insight into grassroots activism of the 1970s and 1980s, galvanized by the seemingly unrestrained growth of the nuclear power industry. The records, emanating from the Hampshire County branch, contain both research materials used by the AEC and organizational and promotional materials produced by them, including publications, minutes of meetings, correspondence, and materials used during protests. Of particular interest are a thick suite of organizational and other information pertaining to the occupation of the Seabrook (N.H.) nuclear power plant in 1979 and minutes, notes, and other materials relating to the founding and early days of the Clamshell Alliance. The collection is closely related to the Antinuclear Collection (MS 547).
- Antinuclear movement--Massachusetts
- Hampshire County (Mass.)--History
- Nuclear energy--Massachusetts
- Political activists--Massachusetts
- Renewable energy source
- Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant (N.H.)
- Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station
- Alternative Energy Coalition
- Clamshell Alliance
Types of material
American Express Company Florence Office Records, 1867-1890.
Call no.: MS 298
Records of express agent Watson L. Wilcox of Simsbury, Connecticut and Florence, Massachusetts documenting Wilcox’s work for the American Express Company and the evolution of the company from a small shipping business to a delivery organization whose services contributed to the growth of the local and regional economy. Records consist of agent books, receipt books, and waybills listing accounts of local companies and residents for the sending, receiving and delivery of freight, telegraph messages, express cash, goods and packages.
- American Merchant's Union Express Company
- Express service--Massachusetts--Florence--History
- Florence (Mass.)--Economic conditions
- Florence Manufacturing Company
- Florence Sewing Machine Company
- Hill, Samuel L
- New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad Company
- Nonotuck Silk Company
- Parsons, I. S
- Simsbury (Conn.)--Economic conditions
- Williston, A. L
- American Express Company (Florence, Mass.)
- Wilcox, Watson L., 1832 or 3-1896
Marcia Grover Church Bates Family Papers, 1712-1999.
Call no.: MS 424
Generations of the Bates and Church families based in North Amherst and Ashfield, Massachusetts. Papers include deeds, a will, correspondence, account books (recording day-to-day expenditures on food, clothing, postage, housekeeping supplies, and laborer’s wages), diaries, an oral history, photographs, genealogical notes, and memorabilia related to the family.
- Ashfield (Mass.)--History
- Bates family
- Church family
- Hotelkeepers--Massachusetts--North Amherst
- Massachusetts Agricultural College--Alumni and alumnae
- Merchants--Massachusetts--North Amherst
- North Amherst (Mass.)--History
- Prescott (Mass.)--History
- Public librarians--Massachusetts
- Worcester (Mass.)--History
- Bates, Marcia Church, 1908-2000
- Church, Cornelia, 1906-1978
- Church, Lucia Grover, 1877-1943
Types of material
- Account books
Brookfield (Mass.) Records, 1736-1795.
Call no.: MS 595
Settled in 1660 and incorporated in 1718, the town of Brookfield (Worcester County) straddles the Boston Post Road, one of the major arteries during the colonial period connecting Boston with the towns of the Connecticut River Valley and New York.
This assemblage of documents from the town of Brookfield consists primarily of warrants for town meetings, many with agendas, issued through the local constable. Concentrated in the 1770s, these warrants provide relatively detailed information on matters of local importance, including town finances, tax assessments, contributions to the poor house, roadways, and property disputes. During the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary years, however, issues of interest to the town were often wrapped up in regional or national political issues. Town freeholders, for example, were called to consider requests to “come into any Vote or Resolve Respecting the East India Company Tea,” the encouragement of manufacture of firearms, smallpox inoculation, and pay for the town’s Minute Men.
- Brookfield (Mass.)--History--18th century
- United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783
- Forster, Jedediah
Types of material
Chickering Family Papers, 1813-1873.
Call no.: MS 095
Nathaniel Chickering came to Enfield, Massachusetts, in 1800 with his son Otis and operated a grist mill for twenty years. One of Otis’ children, Bertrand, operated the Enfield telephone system in the Howe family store and lived with the Edwin H. Howe family.
Includes land and pew deeds of Nathaniel Chickering and Mrs. Otis Chickering’s account booklet with C.F. Wood and Co.
- Chickering family
John G. Clark Papers, 1960-1969.
Call no.: MS 499
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.
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975
- Clark, John G., d. 1972
Lionel Delevingne Photograph Collection, ca.1975-1995.
Call no.: PH 047
Born and raised in France, the photojournalist Lionel Delevingne studied education at l’Ecole Normale in Paris, but settled permanently in the United States in 1975. Based at first in Northampton, Mass., he became a prolific photographer of American social movements while working for the Valley Advocate and other publications, covering the early years of the Clamshell Alliance and the antinuclear movement in considerable depth. His work has been exhibited frequently and published widely in the mainstream and alternative press, including the New York Times, Le Figaro Magazine, Die Zeit, Newsweek, Washington Post Magazine, Mother Jones, and Vanity Fair.
The Delevingne collection includes remarkable visual documentation of the antinuclear movement of the 1970s and beyond, including some of the its most iconic images. Beginning with coverage of the Seabrook occupation, Delevingne covered the movement as it spread throughout the northeastern U.S. and internationally. The collection includes exhibition prints, prints for publication, and digitized images ranging in date from the mid-1970s through 1990s. Copyright in the images has been retained by Delevingne.
- Antinuclear movement--United States
- Clamshell Alliance
- Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant (N.H.)
- Delevingne, Lionel
Types of material
Enfield (Mass.) Collection, 1800-1939.
Call no.: MS 010
Situated at the confluence of the east and west branches of the Swift River in western Massachusetts, Enfield was the largest and southernmost of the four towns inundated in 1939 to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Incorporated as a town in 1816, Enfield was relatively prosperous in the nineteenth century on an economy based on agriculture and small-scale manufacturing, reaching a population of just over 1,000 by 1837. After thirty years of seeking a suitably large and reliable water supply for Boston, the state designated the Swift River Valley as the site for a new reservoir and with its population relocated, Enfield was officially disincorporated on April 28, 1938.
The records of the town of Enfield, Mass., document nearly the entire history of the largest of four towns inundated to create the Quabbin Reservoir. The core of the collection consists of records of town meetings and of the activities of the town Selectmen, 1804-1938, but there are substantial records for the Enfield Congregational Church. The School Committee, Overseers of the Poor, the town Library Association, and groups such as the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Bethel Masonic Lodge.
- Enfield (Mass.)--History
- Enfield (Mass.)--Politics and government
- Enfield (Mass.)--Religious life and customs
- Enfield (Mass.)--Social life and customs
- Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--History
- Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--Social life and customs
- Women--Societies and clubs
- Daughters of the American Revolution. Captain Joseph Hooker Chapter (Enfield, Mass.)
- Enfield (Mass. : Town)
- Enfield (Mass. : Town). Overseers of the Poor
- Enfield (Mass. : Town). Prudential Committee
- Enfield (Mass. : Town). School Committee
- Enfield Congregational Church (Enfield, Mass.)
- Enfield Congregational Church (Enfield, Mass.). Women's Auxiliary
- Enfield Congregational Church (Enfield, Mass.). Women's Missionary Society
Types of material
- Account books
- Church records