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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.

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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

St. Kazimier Society (Turners Falls, Mass.)

St. Kazimier Society Records
1904-1984
15 boxes (8 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 253 bd

The St. Kazimier Society was an early mutual aid society formed in the Polish community in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. Established in 1904, the Society preceded the founding of Our Lady of Czestochowa Church by five years.

Records of the St. Kazimier Society of Turners Falls include administrative files, financial records, educational materials, and photographs. Account books generally reflect members’ premium payments and benefits, the income and expenses of the society itself, and of the club.

Subjects
  • Mutual aid societies--Massachusetts
  • Polish Americans--Massachusetts--Turners Falls
  • Turners Falls (Mass.)--History
Contributors
  • St. Kazimier Society (Turners Falls, Mass.)
Types of material
  • Account books

Story, Ellen

Ellen Story Papers
1997-2016
14 boxes (21 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 962

Born in Oklahoma in 1941, Ellen Story served as the Associate Executive Director of the Family Council of Western Massachusetts for nearly 20 years before deciding to run for a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in a 1992 special election. While in office, she was an advocate for a variety of women’s and social issues ranging from pay equity for women and transgender rights to health services. After 24 years representing the 3rd Hampshire District, Story announced she would not seek another term in 2016.

The bulk of the collection consists of background research and publications related to various issues that went before the Massachusetts state legislature. Also included are reports, administrative and office files, and constituent files.

Subjects
  • Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
  • Massachusetts. General Court. House of Representatives
Contributors
  • Story, Ellen

Strong, Noah Lyman, 1807-1893

Noah Lyman Strong Account Book
1849-1893
1 box (0.5 linear feet)
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).

Subjects
  • 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
Contributors
  • Strong, Noah Lyman

Sufi Order International

Abode of the Message Collection
1975-2012
1 box (1.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 780

Founded in 1975 by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, The Abode of the Message is the headquarters for members of the Sufi Order International. Sitting on 430 acres, formerly the site of a Shaker Village in New Lebanon, New York, the Abode was settled by 75 adults and 20 children coming from all over the United States. The Sufi Order initiates spent the first several months preparing for the arrival of winter, a task that required much effort since buildings were in need of repair, there was no central heating system or updated electrical wiring, and few bathrooms. Within a year, the community prospered with the establishment of woodworking, stained glass, and sewing shops, a bakery, and a small school. Today, the community is smaller in number, but their mission remains the same: to collectively embody spiritual awakening.

The collection consists chiefly of publications produced by the Abode, including two newsletters Connections and The Messenger dating from the 1970s to the present. Also represented are other Sufi Order publications, such as Heart & Wing and Mureed’s Newsletter.

Subjects
  • Sufi Order International

Tertulia (Radio program)

Tertulia Collection
1985-1999
6 boxes (9 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 961

A popular Spanish-language community radio program broadcast on the New England Public Radio station WFCR, Tertulia featured a wide range of music from the Caribbean region and South and Central America, news in both English and Spanish, and discussions of topics of importance to the Latino community. As of 2017, the show has enjoyed over thirty years on air.

The Tertulia collection consists of hundreds of cassette recordings of the radio show, mostly taken as air-checks and many of interviews with members of the Latino community in Western New England.

Gift of Victor E. Guevara, Dec. 2016
Language(s): Spanish
Subjects
  • Ethnic radio programs--Massachusetts
  • Puerto Ricans--Massachusetts
Types of material
  • Audiocassettes

Textile Workers Union of America. New Bedford Joint Board

TWUA New Bedford Joint Board Records
1942-1981
19 boxes (9 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 134

Four local unions located in New Bedford, Massachusetts, that joined in 1939 and became the first affiliates of the New Bedford Joint Board of the Textile Workers Union of America. Includes by-laws, minutes of board of directors and local meetings, correspondence, subject files, photographs, and scrapbooks relating to the administration of the New Bedford Joint Board, documenting its role in addressing grievances filed against individual companies, in facilitating arbitration, and hearing wage stabilization Board cases.

Subjects
  • Labor unions--Massachusetts
  • Textile workers--Labor unions--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • Textile Workers Union of America

Thacher-Channing families

Thacher-Channing Family Papers
1757-1930
3 boxes, books (22.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 1005
Image of Stephen Thacher, ca.1853
Stephen Thacher, ca.1853

A graduate of Yale, failed schoolmaster, and politically-connected customs collector in eastern Maine during the antebellum period, Stephen Thacher raised a large family with grand intellectual ambitions. Thacher’s sons made the most of their collegiate educations in their careers in law and the ministry, his eldest daughter Mary married Thomas Wentworth Higginson, while a granddaughter Alice Thacher married the Harvard historian Edward Channing, son of William Ellery Channing and nephew of Margaret Fuller.

These relics of a prominent New England family contain nearly 150 letters, dozens of photographs and other visual materials, and a large assortment of books from three generations of Thachers and Channings. The letters are a rich resource for understanding the life of Stephen Thacher from the uncertainty of youth in Connecticut to political and financial success in the ports of eastern Maine. Assembled by Stephen’s son Peter, the collection includes a number of noteworthy items, including an excellent letter from Timothy Goodwin in July 1775, describing his experiences during the failed expedition on Quebec and the retreat to Crown Point, and a series of letters from Congressman Martin Kinsley on the major issues of the day, including the extension of slavery to the territories and formation of the state of Maine.

Gift of Ben Forbes and Fran Soto, 2017
Subjects
  • Channing family
  • Maine--Politics and government--19th century
  • Massachusetts--Politics and government--19th century
  • Thacher family
Types of material
  • Ambrotypes
  • Daguerreotypes
  • Photographs
  • Silhouettes

Thatcher, Roscoe Wilfrid, 1872-1933

Roscoe Wilfrid Thatcher Papers
1900-1934
4 boxes (2 linear feet)
Call no.: RG 003/1 T43
Image of Roscoe W. Thatcher
Roscoe W. Thatcher

The agronomist Roscoe Thatcher served as the last president of Massachusetts Agricultural College and the first when the institution changed its name to Massachusetts State College in 1931. Before coming to Amherst, Thatcher had extensive experience in both agricultural research and administration, having served as director of the agricultural station for the state of Washington, as professor of plant chemistry at the University of Minnesota (1913-1917), and as dean of the School of Agriculture and director of the Minnesota Experiment Station (1917-1921), and as director of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva. Selected as President of the Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1927, he helped expand the two year program in practical agriculture to become the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and oversaw curricular reform, orienting vocational training toward citizenship education. The student health service also started during his tenure. Thatcher resigned due to ill health in 1933. Although he returned to research in agricultural chemistry at the College in April 1933, he died in his laboratory on December 6, 1933.

Official and administrative correspondence, memos, and other papers, relating to Thatcher’s service as president of Massachusetts State College together with writing and biographical material.

Subjects
  • Massachusetts State College. President
Contributors
  • Thatcher, Roscoe Wilfrid, 1872-1933

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