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.
Author Tom Fels and media artist Mark Tribe will speak on Tuesday, March 5, 2013, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., in Room 2601 on Floor 26, of the Du Bois Library at UMass Amherst. The event, “Peace and War: Assessing the Legacies of Sixties Activism Today,” marks the completion of the eighth annual Social Change Colloquium.
Longtime independent writer and researcher Tom Fels’ new book Buying the Farm: Peace and War on a Sixties Commune (UMass Press, 2012) explores the long history of Montague Farm, north of Amherst, one of the era’s iconic experiments in social change. Before drawing his own conclusions about it in the book, he recounts the farm’s many early contributions to the counterculture, and later the farm’s devolution at the hands of competing farm-family factions, inviting us to question the balance between idealism and effectiveness. “For today’s young,” says Tom Hayden, author of The Long Sixties, “the economic future is far more bleak and global warming an unprecedented threat. Out of necessity, many will be searching for meaningful forms of communal self-sufficiency, healthful food, and renewable energy. Tom Fels’ captivating and profound reflection on one earlier commune, Montague Farm, founded in the 1960s, offers hard-learned reflections, some practical, some eternal, from a time when communes were the chosen path of many.” In the first hour of the colloquium Fels will read from Buying the Farm. There will be a question and answer period following the reading.
Mark Tribe is part of the next generation to be inspired by sixties activism. His Port Huron Project (2006-2009) is a series of reenactments of protest speeches from the New Left movements of the Vietnam era. Enacted at the site of the original event, each speech was delivered by an actor or performance artist. Videos of these performances have been screened on campuses, exhibited in art spaces, and distributed online as open-source media. As Julia Bryan-Wilson wrote in Artforum, in January 2008, “More than just recovering the past, these re-speaking projects use archival speeches to ask questions about the current place of stridency and forceful dissent, and the possibilities of effective, galvanizing political discourse.” In bringing the words of Cesar Chavez, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, and others to the public through contemporary media, Tribe, in this portion of his work, creatively recycles earlier activism to relate it to issues of today. In the second hour of the colloquium, Tribe will show and discuss some of his work.
Delevingne will discuss the mass media’s role in the nuclear power issue and his own responsibility before and after the Three Mile Island accident and Chernobyl disaster. Anna Gyorgy will discuss citizen action and democracy, with international examples based on her work with the Clamshell Alliance, and, more recently, with the strong German anti-nuclear/pro-solar movements.
New England was an epicenter of the antinuclear movement of the 1970s and 1980s. Sparked by the proposed construction of nuclear power plants in Montague, Massachusetts, and Seabrook, New Hampshire, a grass-roots movement blossomed in the region, drawing on a long tradition of non-violent political protest. Shortly after arriving in the United States from his native France in 1975, the photojournalist Lionel Delevingne began covering the antinuclear movement, including the history of civil disobedience and occupation at Seabrook, the aftermath of the Three Mile Island disaster, and other protests from New York to South Carolina and Europe.
Delevingne is the co-author of Drylands, a Rural American Saga (University of Nebraska Press, 2011); Northampton: Reflections on Paradise (Nouveau Monde Press, 1988); and Franco-American Viewpoints (Nouveau Monde Press/Wistariahurst Museum, 1988). His work has been exhibited frequently in the U.S. and abroad and published widely in the mainstream and alternative press, including the New York Times, Newsweek, Mother Jones, Vanity Fair, Le Figaro Magazine, and Die Zeit. Delevingne has participated in many award-winning projects sponsored by National Endowment of the Arts/Humanities (NEA), Massachusetts Endowment for the Humanities, University & College Designers Association (UCDA), University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), and Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
Anna Gyorgy was active in the early movement against nuclear power, and is the author-editor of the classic work NO NUKES: Everyone’s Guide to Nuclear Power (South End Press, 1979/1981). She is in the process of returning to the U.S. after 25 years abroad, where she has since 1999 coordinated the multi-lingual website project: “Women and Life on Earth” (www.wloe.org).
The related exhibit “To the Village Square” includes some of the movement’s most memorable images, shot by Delevingne, along with materials drawn from the rich anti-nuclear collections held in the UMass Amherst Libraries’ Department of Special Collections and University Archives.
Why These Stories Need to be Told in their Variety, their Intensity and their Honesty” (Nov. 10)
Social justice activist Tom Weiner will give a talk on his recently published book Called to Serve: Stories of Men and Women Confronted by the Vietnam War Draft. The book is the fruit of years of extensive interviews with chapters for people who made different choices among the available options: to serve, to resist, to leave the country, to become a conscientious objector, or to find a way around the draft altogether as well as a chapter for those who loved, counseled and supported. His presentation will include several of his interview subjects who will share parts of their testimonies. Weiner recently donated the tapes of the interviews and the transcripts to Special Collections and University Archives.
On Friday, October 1, Steve Lerner will talk about his new book Sacrifice Zones: The Front Lines of Toxic Chemical Exposure in the United States. The event will be held from 1.30-3pm in the Gordon Hall, 418 N. Pleasant Street, Amherst.
Across the United States, thousands of people, most of them in low-income or minority communities, live next to heavily polluting industrial sites. Many of them reach a point at which they say “Enough is enough.” In Sacrifice Zones, published by MIT Press in 2010, Steve Lerner tells the stories of twelve communities, from Brooklyn to Pensacola, that rose up to fight the industries and military bases causing disproportionately high levels of chemical pollution.
Steve Lerner is research director of Commonweal and the author of Eco-Pioneers: Practical Visionaries Solving Today’s Environmental Problems.
This event is co-sponsored by the Political Economy Research Institute’s Environmental Working Group and Special Collections & University Archives
On Thurs. October 28, Amy Bass will talk on “Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars? The 1968 Olympics and the Creation of the Black Athlete,” in Room 803, Campus Center, UMass Amherst. The event is co-sponsored by the Feinberg Family Lecture Series organized by the UMass Amherst Department of History, and is free and open to the public.
Amy Bass is professor of history at the College of New Rochelle. She is the author of Not the Triumph But the Struggle: 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete and Those About Him Remained Silent: The Battle over W. E. B. Du Bois. She is the editor of In the Game: Race, Identity, and Sports in the Twentieth Century. Bass has an M.A. and a Ph.D. in history from Stony Brook University. Her research interests include African American history, modern American culture, identity politics, and historical theory and methodology. She has served as research supervisor for the NBC Olympic unit at the Atlanta, Sydney, Salt Lake, Athens, and Torino Olympic Games.
Dr. Bass’s talk will explore the black power protest at the Mexico City Olympic Games by Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968. Their moment on the victory dais effectively linked American sports and racial politics in the U.S. She will examine how the black power protest in Mexico became the defining image of the 1968 Olympics. She will also explore how the Olympic Project for Human Rights mobilized black athletes to assume a new set of responsibilities alongside their athletic prowess, forcing Americans, and the world, to reconsider the role of sports within civil rights movements.
- Raymond Mungo
- Raymond Mungo was a key figure in the literary world of the late 1960s counterculture. A founder of the Liberation News Service — an alternative press agency that distributed news reflecting a left-oriented, antiwar, countercultural perspective — Mungo moved to Vermont during the summer of 1968 and settled on a commune. A novelist and writer, his first book, Famous Long Ago: My Life and Hard Times With Liberation News Service (1970) is considered a classic account of the countercultural left, and his follow-up Total Loss Farm (1971), based on his experiences on the Packer Corners commune, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Mungo has written several novels, screenplays, dozens of essays, and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles during a literary career of more than four decades. For the past ten years, he has worked as a social worker in Los Angeles, tending primarily to AIDS patients and the severely mentally ill.
- Todd Gitlin
- While a college student in the early 1960s, Todd Gitlin rose to national prominence as a writer and theorist of the New Left. A president of Students for a Democratic Society in 1963-1964, he was a central figure in the civil rights and antiwar movements, helping to organize the first national mobilization against the war in Vietnam, the March on Washington of 1965. After receiving degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of California Berkeley, Gitlin joined the faculty at Columbia University, where he is currently Professor of Journalism and Sociology and Chair of the doctoral program in Communications. Over the past thirty years, he has written extensively on mass communication, the media, and journalism. The author of twelve books, Gitlin is today a noted public intellectual and prominent critic of both the left and right in American politics, arguing that pragmatic coalition building should replace ideological purity and criticizing the willingness of those on both sides to use violence to reach ends to power.
- Talk II:
- Thurs, Oct. 29, 2009, 4 p.m., Blake Slonecker, Assistant Professor of History at Waldorf College, will present a talk, “Living the Moment: Liberation News Service, Montague Farm, and the New Left, 1967-1981.
- Junius Williams
- Writer and activist.
- Parker Donham
- Journalist and former press secretary for Eugene McCarthy
- Tom Hayden
- Fmr President of Students for a Democratic Society
For nearly fifty years, Tom Hayden’s name has been synonymous with social change. As a founding member of the Students for a Democratic Society in 1961, he was author of its visionary call, the Port Huron Statement, the touchstone for a generation of activists. As a Freedom Rider in the Deep South in the early 1960s, he was arrested and beaten in rural Georgia and Mississippi. As a community organizer in Newark’s inner city in 1964, he was part of an effort to create a national poor people’s campaign for jobs and empowerment.
When the Vietnam War invaded American lives, Hayden became a prominent voice in opposition, organizing teach-ins and demonstrations, writing, and making one of the first trips to Hanoi in 1965 to meet with the other side. One of the leaders of the street demonstrations against the war at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, he was one of eight organizers indicted — and eventually acquitted — on charges of conspiracy and incitement.
After the political system opened in the 1970s, Hayden organized the grass-roots Campaign for Economic Democracy in California, which won dozens of local offices and shut down a nuclear power plant through a referendum for the first time. He was elected to the California state assembly in 1982, and the state senate ten years later, serving eighteen years in all, and he has twice served on the national platform committee of the Democratic Party.
- Johnny Flynn, Tim Koster, Sheila Lennon, Karen Smith
As part of its annual Colloquium on Social Change, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives of UMass Amherst presents a panel discussion and readings from a new book, Time it Was: American Stories from the Sixties, a set of short memoirs written by people who participated in a wide variety of Sixties-era movements and events. Join us for speakers Johnny Flynn (American Indian Movement), Sheila Lennon (Woodstock), Tim Koster (Draft Lottery “Winner” and Conscientious Objector), and Karen Manners Smith, who spent five years in a religious cult.
For students, the readings and discussion provide an opportunity to hear stories that move beyond Sixties mythology towards an appreciation of the real — but no less exciting — experiences of young people in that tumultuous era. Non-students and members of the Five College and surrounding communities will find this panel discussion a chance to reconnect with their own memories of the period.
- Eric Mann and Lian Hurst Mann
- Labor/Community Strategy Center, Los Angeles
- Flier announcing the event (pdf)
- Carl Oglesby
- Writer, antiwar activist, former President of SDS
- Tom Fels
- Curator, writer, fmr resident of Montague Farm Commune
- Catherine Blinder
- Activist, writer, fmr resident of Tree Frog Farm Commune
- Flier announcing the event (pdf)
Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) Records, 1992-2012.
Call no.: MS 868
Originating in 1991, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) was established “to create a global network for book historians working in a broad range of scholarly disciplines.” With more than 1,000 members, research interests include the composition and reception of books as well as their survival and transformation over time.
Records cover the earliest days of the organization’s development, including founding documents, and document a variety of their activities from hosting conferences and publishing a newsletter to promoting scholarship.
- Authors and readers
- Publishers and publishing
Arvo A. Solander Papers, 1930-1958.
Call no.: MS 587
Graduating from Harvard in the thick of the Great Depression, Arvo A. Solander worked as a civil and sanitary engineer for a variety of state and federal agencies, including the Civil Works Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. During the 1930s, as opportunity arose, he filled positions as a road engineer, in the design and construction of water and sewage plants, in pollution control, as a safety engineer in the shellfish industry, and in mosquito control, taking jobs throughout Massachusetts and as far away as Tennessee. After using his talents as an officer in the Sanitary Corps during the Second World War, based primarily in Arkansas, Solander returned home to Massachusetts and opened a private engineering office in South Hadley. He worked as a civil engineer and surveyor until his death in January 1976.
The Arvo Solander Papers consists of twenty-four bound volumes documenting thirty years of varied work as an engineer, including his contributions to the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir. Within the bound volumes are a wide range of reports, typescripts, sketches and diagrams, graphs, contracts and design specifications, photographs, and postcards.
- Civil engineers
- Civilian Conservation Corps (U.S.)
- Quabbin Reservoir (Mass.)
- Roads--Design and construction
- Sanitary engineers
- Sewage disposal plants--Design and construction
- United States. Federal Civil Works Administration
- Westfield State Sanatorium
- World War, 1939-1945
- Wrentham State School
- Solander, Arvo A
Types of material
Southeast Asia Collection, 1925-1986.
Call no.: MS 407
The Southeast Asia Collection highlights the regional wars from the 1970s to the 1980s, including a series on Southeast Asian refugees in America, along with materials on regional economic development, especially in the Mekong River Basin. The collection contains hundreds of reports on agricultural and industrial projects in the region, examining everything from the impact of electrification on village life in Thailand to a description of a Soviet-built hospital in Cambodia in 1961, to an assessment of herbicide in Vietnam in 1971.
Collected primarily by Joel Halpern and James Hafner, the collection includes background, field, and situation reports by U.S. Operations Missions and U.S. Agency for International Development; reports, publications, statistics, and background information from other U.S. government agencies, governments of Laos and Thailand, and the United Nations; correspondence, reports, and reference materials of nongovernmental organizations; reports and essays by individuals about Southeast Asia; news releases and newspapers; published and unpublished bibliographies; and interviews with U.S. military personnel. Most material comes from governmental and organizational sources, but there are papers by, and debriefs of, numerous individuals.
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975
- Hafner, James
- Halpern, Joel Martin
Sroka Family Papers, 1842-1960.
Call no.: MS 216
Polish family who emigrated to the United States in 1912-1913 and settled in Chicopee, Massachusetts, working in meat packing firms and textile factories, and also as seamstresses and farmers.
Includes birth and wedding certificates, military and employment documentation, residential and passport applications, photographs, and lists of baptisms, weddings, and deaths. Also contains a family history written by Gary Sroka, correspondence, payment book for the Society of St. Joseph (Chicopee, Massachusetts), and a news clipping. All materials exist as photocopies and are written primarily in Polish, German, and Hungarian, though some are in English, Ukrainian, and Russian.
- Chicopee (Mass.)--History
- Polish Americans--Massachusetts
Wallace Stevens Collection, 1900-1954.
Call no.: MS 365
Collection of Wallace Stevens correspondence, mainly incoming, although three letters are from Stevens himself to Henry Shattuck and Charles Tomlinson. Also includes a letter informing Stevens of his receipt of the Bollingen Prize, an announcement of the honorary degree awarded him from Harvard along with memorabilia relating to his 50th class reunion there, a playbill, and press reviews of Steven’s work.
- Stevens, Wallace, 1879-1955
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
E. Sidney Stockwell Papers, 1910-1928.
Call no.: MS 691
A member of the Massachusetts Agricultural College class of 1919, Ervin Sidney Stockwell, Jr. (1898-1983) was born in Winthrop, Mass., to Grace Cobb and E. Sidney Cobb, Sr., a successful business man and owner of a wholesale dairy. Entering MAC as a freshman in 1915, Stockwell, Jr., studied agricultural economics and during his time in Amherst, took part in the college debate team, winning his class award for oratory, and dramatics with the Roister Doisters. He performed military service in 1918 at Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Camp Lee, Va. Stockwell went on to found a successful custom-house brokerage in Boston, E. Sidney Import Export, and was followed at his alma mater by his son and great-grandson.
The extensive correspondence between Sidney Stockwell and his mother, going in both directions, provides a remarkably in-depth perspective on a typical undergraduate’s life at Massachusetts Agricultural College during the time of the First World War, a period when MAC was considered an innovator in popular education. The letters touch on the typical issues of academic life and social activity, Stockwell’s hopes for the future, his military service and the war. Following graduation, Stockwell undertook an adventurous two year trip in which he worked his way westward across the country, traveling by rail and foot through the Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana, Washington state and California, taking odd jobs to earn his keep and writing home regularly to describe his journey. An oral history with Stockwell is available in the University Archives as part of the Class of 1919 project.
- Agricultural education--Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Agricultural College--Students
- Montana--Description and travel
- North Dakota--Description and travel
- Washington--Description and travel
- World War, 1914-1918
- Stockwell, E. Sidney
- Stockwell, Helen Cobb
Brainerd Taylor Family Papers, 1871-1964.
Call no.: MS 733
A member of a distinguished family of New England educators and clergymen, Brainerd Taylor played an key role in assisting the U.S. Army takes its first steps into modern mechanized warfare. Born in Newtonville, Massachusetts, in 1877, Taylor entered Harvard with the class of 1899, but during the rush of enthusiasm accompanying the start of the Spanish American War, he left before completing his degree to join the military. Serving with the Coast Artillery for several years, he became the Chief Motor Transport Officer for the Advance Section of the Service of Supply for the American Expeditionary Force during the First World War, earning promotion to Colonel, a Distinguished Service Medal, and the Legion of Honor from France for his efforts. Taylor married twice, first to Vesta Richardson, who died in 1919, and then to Helen Cady. Taylor died in 1955.
The Taylor family collection contains over 1,000 letters documenting the military career and personal life of Brainerd Taylor, with particularly thick coverage of the period of the First World War when he was stationed in France, building the Motor Transport Corps virtually from scratch. These letters are exceptionally well written and rich in description, both about his duties and his travels in France and Germany. The collection also includes Taylor’s extensive correspondence to his father, James Brainerd Taylor (1845-1929), and correspondence relating to Taylor’s wives, children, and grandchildren.
- France--Description and travel
- Germany--Description and travel
- World War, 1914-1918
- Taylor, Brainerd, 1877-
- Taylor, Helen M.
- Taylor, James Brainerd
- Taylor, Vesta R.