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.
St. Stanislaus Society Records, 1959-1969.
Call no.: MS 254 bd
Named for Polish saint Stanislaus Kostka, the St. Stanislaus Society of Turners Falls was most likely a part of a larger fraternal society, possibly the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America. Ethnic parishes and the fraternal societies that often sprang up around them, served as buffers between the customs and language immigrants brought with them and the new traditions and language they were expected to learn upon entering American society. Fraternal socities like St. Stanislaus offered members a place to celebrate their Polish heritage and Roman Catholic faith, while also assisting them with some of the more practical matters of living in a new country, such as securing life insurance and home mortgages.
- Fraternal organizations--Massachusetts
- Polish Americans--Massachusetts--Turners Falls
- Turners Falls (Mass.)--History
- St. Stanislaus Society (Tuners Falls, Mass.)
Types of material
- Account books
Storrsville Lyceum Debating Society Minutebook, 1842-1846.
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.
- 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
Westhampton Town Records, 1779-1900.
Call no.: MS 799
Originally settled by Europeans in 1762, the town of Westhampton, Massachusetts, was separated from adjacent Northampton and incorporated in September 1778. Situated in the western reaches of Hampshire County, it was principally an agricultural town until the later twentieth century, producing apples, other fruit, and maple sugar, with only minor industry. The town still retains its rural character: a century after incorporation, the population had grown to just over 500, and nearly 1,500 by 2000.
The Westhampton collection provides an extensive record of public life and local governance in a typical small Hampshire County town. Spanning from 1779, just after the date of incorporation, through the turn of the twentieth century, the collection includes extensive records of town meetings, including warrants, agendas, and summaries; records of the Overseers of Poor, the schools, militia service, and parish; materials on roads and highways; and a large quantity of financial records.
- Town meetings--Massachusetts--Westhampton
Westhampton Congregational Church Records, 1817-1970.
Call no.: MS 806
The Congregational Church in Westhampton, Mass., was formally organized on Sept. 1, 1779, with the installation of a young graduate of Yale, Enoch Hale, brother of the patriot Nathan Hale. At the end of Hale’s fifty years in the Westhampton pulpit, the church experienced a crisis that resulted in the separation of a portion of the membership as the Union Church, led by the charismatic evangelical preacher John Truair. The churches were reunited in 1850.
The records of the Westhampton Congregational Church document nearly two hundreds of religious life in a rural western Massachusetts community. Beginning with the founding of the church in 1779, the collection include a nearly unbroken record of church activities including thorough records of membership, transfers, marriages, baptisms, deaths, and church discipline, and for the latter century, a complete record of church finances. Of particular note is a volume recording the activities of the secessionist Union Church, 1829-1849.
- Congregational churches--Massachusetts--Westhampton
- Hale, Enoch, 1753-1837
- Second Great Awakening
- Truair, John, 1780-1845
- Westhampton (Mass.)--Religious life and customs
- Union Church (Westhampton, Mass.)
Types of material
- Account books
Constitutionalism in American Life Conference Collection, 1986.
Call no.: MS 140
A conference hosted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst on November 7-9, 1986, that examined the impact of the Constitution on politics and government, foreign policy, race relations, and the economy, and also discussed the impact on the constitution of popular struggles and the emergence of “rights consciousness.” Includes papers presented at the conference that were to be subsequently published in a special bicentennial issue of the Journal of American History.
- Constitutional history--United States--Congresses
- Constitutional law--United States--Congresses
- Journal of American history
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--History
Mass Voters for Fair Elections Records, 1997-2005.
Call no.: MS 554
Since 1994 the Mass Voters for Fair Elections has been part of a national movement to minimize the role of money in elections. Watching both the cost of running a successful campaign and the role of fundraising increase, the organization led the fight to put the Clean Elections Initiative on the ballot in 1998. With overwhelming support for the initiative, the ballot question won only to be repealed by the Legislature in 2003. Until it ceased activity in 2007, Mass Voters for Fair Elections continued to work for reform in the electoral process not only to encourage more individuals to run for office, but also to affirm the principle “one person, one vote.”
The collection consists chiefly of subject files that document issues relating to elections and campaign reform addressed by the group and its volunteers. Also included: correspondence, meeting notes, publications, and mailings.
- Campaign funds--Massachusetts
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
- Political campaigns--Massachusetts
- Mass Voters for Fair Elections
Northampton Area Mental Health Services Records, 1973-1983.
Call no.: MS 027
In 1973 Hampshire Day House was established to provide day treatment to patients released from the Northampton State Hospital, which first opened as the Northampton Lunatic Asylum in 1858. As the Day House expanded its services it became known as the Northampton Area Mental Health Services (NAMHS). Valley Programs assumed responsibility for the operation of residential programs for deinstitutionalized individuals in Hampshire and Franklin counties in 1983, and seven years later the NAMHS and Valley Programs merged.
The collection consists of reports, financial records, board minutes, and correspondence for the Hampshire Day House.
- Community mental health services
- Mental health facilities
- Northampton (Mass.) Area Mental Health Services
Planning Services Group Records, 1956-1986.
Call no.: MS 335
An urban planning firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that assisted New England cities and towns with initiating and managing urban development projects. The firm had two main types of contracts, urban renewal and comprehensive community planning, and many of their projects were supported with funds designated by the Federal Housing Act of 1949.
Includes organizational histories, memoranda, correspondence, proposal guidelines, materials for citizen participation, job inventories and reports, brochures that document urban growth management and the problems of suburbanization in New England, background studies, planning reports, growth management policies, zoning bylaws and amendments, and the files of Katharine Kumala.
- Urban planning--Massachusetts
- Planning Services Group (Cambridge, Mass.)
Social Change Collection, 1953-1980.
Call no.: MS 457
Miscellaneous manuscripts and documents relating to the history and experience of social change in America. Among other things, the collection includes material relating to the peace and antiwar movements during the 1960s, the conflict in Vietnam, and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).
- Anti-imperialist movements
- Peace movements
- Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements--Massachusetts