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Social change

Anti-war sit-in, Whitmore Hall, ca.1971

Anti-war sit-in, Whitmore Hall, ca.1971

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.
  • Environmentalism
    • 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 history 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
  • 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.

Learn more:

Social Change Colloquium

Student holding academic gown adorned with Black Power symbol, 1970

Barn

Each fall, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives sponsors a colloquium focusing on a topic in social change. Like SCUA’s collections, these colloquia cover a broad terrain, touching on a variety of issues in social justice, equality, and democracy.

Colloquia are free and open to the public.

Colloquium 2015, (Friday, April 8, 2016)
Documenting Punk: Writing, preserving, watching and listening to the history of an American cultural movement
Documenting punk

April 8, 2016, from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Room 163, UMass Campus Center

Punk, one of the last major youth sub-cultures during the pre-Internet era, was also a decentralized national and international community linked mostly by recordings, zines and the touring of bands. Individual scenes developed across the country in major urban areas, suburban communities and small towns. While each had its own personality and bands, they were linked by a shared distrust of establishment institutions and commercialized popular culture.

In recent years, punk archives have been established at academic repositories and as a result, scholars and the broader public have access to stories that have before only been shared within the punk community. Efforts have also been made to chronicle the history of the movement through the making of films, books and oral histories. The colloquium aims to open a conversation about the documentation of punk. The panel will explore questions including: How can the anti-establishment, anti-institutional, do-it-yourself ethos of punk be reconciled with the desire to collect, preserve and academically study the movement? How can the needs of community access be balanced with the demands of proper conservation? Can the ways scholars, archivists and librarians document a community be reconciled with the ways the movement documents itself?

Keynote speaker Dr. Michael Stewart Foley is the author of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables and Front Porch Politics, The Forgotten Heyday of American Activism in the 1970s and 1980s. Foley is a professor of American Political Culture and Political Theory at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He is also a founding editor of The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics, and Culture.

Event speakers also include Ramdasha Bikceem, Byron Coley, Lisa Darms, Michael T. Fournier, Deward MacLeod, Sara Marcus and Tanya Pearson. For full speaker bios, visit: www.punkhistory.org.

The colloquium is free and open to the public. RSVP at: http://bit.ly/punksignup The event is co-sponsored by the UMass Amherst Libraries, UMass Amherst Department of History, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and Social Thought & Political Economy (STPEC).

Sommer, Mark

Mark Sommer Papers, 1966-2017
21 boxes (32 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 973

Mark Sommer, with Zetta, the first newborn goat at the Sommer homestead in northern CA, May 1985

Mark Sommer is an explorer, storyteller, and award-winning public radio and print journalist focused on advocacy and narratives of social, political, and environmental change and positive action. In Washington, D.C., Sommer found himself on hand for some of the 1960s pivotal moments, where he was involved with the Liberation News Service and the New Left think tank, the Institute for Policy Studies. Sommer moved to California in 1969 to explore the counterculture, spending several years journeying – spiritually, psychedelically, and physically between communes, farms, and wilderness homesteads along the western coast – before he and his wife built a self-reliant organic homestead in the deep woods of northern CA, where they lived from the 1970s to the 1990s. The resilience of nature deeply impacted Sommer’s outlook and work as a writer and journalist, driving his interest in the human capacity for overcoming adversity. Sommer founded and directed the Mainstream Media Project, a nonprofit media placement service scheduling leading edge thinkers and social innovators for extensive radio interviews, and Sommer served as host and executive producer of the internationally syndicated and award winning, one-hour weekly radio program, A World of Possibilities. Sommer is the author of three books (Beyond the Bomb, The Conquest of War, and Living in Freedom), and hundreds of op-eds in major newspapers worldwide. Current projects include short and movie length videos crafted from his photographs, films, interviews, and experiences.

Chronicling over five decades of creative and journalistic output of a life-long explorer and progressive advocate, the Mark Sommer Papers are an extensive collection, covering Sommer’s entire career and personal life from the late 1960s to the present. Writings include personal and multiple travel journals (including a unique trip to North Vietnam in 1968), correspondence, student essays, op-eds, articles, project and grant plans, memoirs, and book manuscripts. Additional journals exist in audio format, along with radio interviews where Sommer served as a guest. Slides, photographs, and movies cover Sommer’s family and home life to his wide-ranging travels and interests. Some main topics of coverage include foreign policy and international politics, progressivism, peace and conflict studies, the anti-nuclear and disarmament movements, wilderness and back-to-the-land experiences, and later in life fatherhood. Materials from Mainstream Media Project have been separated into the Mainstream Media Project Records.

Gift of Mark Sommer, May 2017
Subjects
  • Antinuclear movement
  • Counterculture--United States
  • Institute for Policy Studies
  • Journalists--California
  • Nuclear disarmament
  • Peace--research
  • Peaceful change (International relations)
  • Political activists
  • Reconciliation
  • Self-reliant living--California
  • Sustainable living
  • Travel writing
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Types of material
  • Articles
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Memoirs
  • Photographs
  • Sound recordings
  • Video recordings

Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia Collection, 1925-1986

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.

Subjects
  • Cambodia--History--1953-1975
  • Laos--History
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Contributors
  • Hafner, James
  • Halpern, Joel Martin

Sroka Family

Sroka Family Papers, 1842-1960
1 box (0.25 linear feet)
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.

Subjects
  • Chicopee (Mass.)--History
  • Immigrants--Massachusetts
  • Polish Americans--Massachusetts

Stamper, G. Clifford

G. Clifford Stamper Papers, 1943-1955
2 boxes (0.75 linear feet)
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.

Subjects
  • United States. Army Service Forces. Special Services Division
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Czechoslovakia
  • World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--France
Contributors
  • Doyle, James C
  • Stamper, G. Clifford (George Clifford), 1912-2005
Types of material
  • Letters (Correspondence)

Stetson, William B.

William B. Stetson Account book, 1856-1870
1 vol. (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 348 bd

As a young man in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, William B. Stetson (b. ca.1836) earned a living by performing manual labor for local residents. Most of his work, and increasingly so, was found in the range of tasks associated with lumbering: chopping wood, sawing boards, making shingles and fence boards. By 1870, Stetson was listed in the federal census as a lumberman in the adjacent town of Leverett.

Stetson’s rough-hewn book of accounts provides detail on the work and expenditures of a young man from Shutesbury, Massachusetts, in the years just prior to the Civil War. Carefully kept, but idiosyncratic, they document a working class mans efforts to earn a living by whatever means possible, largely in lumber-related tasks. His accounts list a number of familiar local names, including Albert Pratt, Sylvanus Pratt, Charles Pratt, Charles Nutting, E. Cushman, John Haskins, and J. Stockwell. Set into the front of the volume are a set of work records dated in Leverett in 1870, by which time Stetson had apparently focused his full energies on lumbering.

Subjects
  • Leverett (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Lumber trade--Massachusetts--Leverett
  • Lumber trade--Massachusetts--Shutesbury
  • Shutesbury (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
Contributors
  • Stetson, William B.
Types of material
  • Account books

Stone, George E. (George Edward), 1860-1941

George Edward Stone Papers, 1890-1957
14 boxes (6.75 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 085

Professor of Botany, Massachusetts Agricultural College.

Correspondence, lecture notes, reports, notes on experiments, drawings depicting original apparatus, scrapbooks of printed botanical illustrations, student papers, genealogies, memorabilia, and photographs; together with papers reflecting administrative and official duties; correspondence, notes, and news clippings on psychic phenomena; and autobiographical notes, including reflections on Massachusetts Agricultural College and on Emily Dickinson.

Subjects
  • Botany--Massachusetts
  • Dickinson, Emily, 1830-1886
  • Horticulture--Massachusetts
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College--Faculty
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College. Botany Department
  • Plant physiology--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • Barlow, Waldo
  • Stone, George E. (George Edward), 1860-1941
Types of material
  • Herbaria
  • Photographs

Stone, John

John Stone Account Book, 1836-1842
1 vol. (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 247 bd

John Stone appears to have been a storekeeper in North Dennis, Massachusetts in the 1830s and 1840s. He also dealt in lumber, wood products, and building materials.

This volume represents a number of miscellaneous accounts, and because there are no page numbers, the exact nature of the book is difficult to discern and information is difficult to extract. Starting at the front, a more or less complete list of the accounts includes: cost of loads of lumber, 1837-1840; accounts with individuals, 1837-1840; invoice of goods, 1839; bills not paid, 1840-1841.

Subjects
  • Lumber trade--Massachusetts--North Dennis
  • Merchants--Massachusetts--North Dennis
  • North Dennis (Mass.)--History
Types of material
  • Account books

Storrsville (Mass.) Lyceum Debating Society

Storrsville Lyceum Debating Society Minutebook, 1842-1846
1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 016 bd

Club that met weekly or bi-weekly in Storrsville, Massachusetts, to debate questions of local, national, and international interest including religion, abolition and slavery, human nature, penal reform, the lure of the West, intemperance, and war and peace. Single minutebook includes two versions of the constitution, proposed and debated questions, the teams, the outcome, and notations of any additional activities that took place during the formal meetings.

Subjects
  • Ciceronean Debating Club (Dana, Mass.)
  • Dana (Mass. : Town)--Intellectual life--19th century
  • Debates and debating--Massachusetts--Dana (Town)--History
  • Storrsville (Dana, Mass. : Town)--Intellectual life--19th century
  • Storrsville Lyceum Debating Society (Dana, Mass.)--Archives
Types of material
  • Minute books

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