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)
Frances and Mary Allen Collection of Deerfield Photographs, 1900-1910.
Call no.: PH 001
Influenced by the arts and crafts movement, Frances and Mary Allen began taking photographs of their native Deerfield, Mass., in the mid-1880s. Displaying a finely honed pictorialist aesthetic, the sisters specialized in views of Deerfield and surrounding towns, posed genre scenes of life in colonial times, and the local scenery, earning a reputation as among the best women photographers of the period.
The Allen sisters photograph album contains ten gelatin developing out prints of street scenes in Deerfield, ca.1900-1910. Among these are two shots of the house they inherited from their aunt Kate in 1895, which thereafter became their home and studio.
- Deerfield (Mass.)--Photographs
- Women photographers--Massachusetts
- Allen, Frances
- Allen, Mary E. (Mary Electa), 1858-1941
Types of material
Ebenezer Bailey Papers, 1852-1882.
Call no.: MS 448
Ebenezer Bailey was a wholesale shoe purchaser and distributor from Massachusetts. The collection comprises just over 100 items, the bulk of which are receipts for the purchase and sale of shoes and slippers, covering the period from 1852 to 1882.
- Business records--Massachusetts
- Dearborn, J. J
- Lynn (Mass.)--History
- Shoe industry--Massachusetts--Lynn
- Shoe industry--New England--History--19th century
- Bailey, Ebenezer
Types of material
- Receipts (Financial records)
Mark Brinsfield Poster Collection, 1979-1994.
Call no.: MS 854
Mark Taylor Brinsfield studied languages and law in Europe before receiving his MA in European Studies at the University of Exeter. His research has included work in the history of multiracial people in post-World War II Southeast Asia. Brinsfield currently lives in Northampton, Mass.
The posters in the Brinsfield Collection represent a cross-section of West German political campaigning during the decade leading up to reunification. Focused primarily on national, rather than regional elections, the collection includes representative work from the major left- and right-leaning political parties (CDU and RCDS, SDU, the Greens) as well as a few posters addressed at major political issues, including the antinuclear and antiwar movements.
- Antinuclear movements--Germany
- Antiwar movements--Germany
- Christlich-Demokratische Union Deutschlands
- Germany--History --1945-1990
- Germany--Politics and government--1945-1990
- Grünen (Political party)
- Ring Christlich-Demokratischer Studenten
- Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
- Staeck, Klaus
Types of material
Gloria Xifaras Clark Papers, 1943-2015.
Call no.: MS 865
Gloria Xifaras Clark was working as an elementary school teacher in her home town of New Bedford in 1964 when she answered the call to enlist in the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. A recent graduate of Wheelock College, she was assigned to teach in the Benton County Freedom School in Holly Springs for several months, and stayed on to help organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and to teach literacy and Negro history in Benton, Tippah, and Union Counties. She continued on the activist path after returning to Massachusetts, devoting her energies to economic justice initiatives and work with the Friends of SNCC and the NAACP, and diving headlong into the antiwar movement as head of the Greater New Bedford Draft Information Center. After spending three years in England with her family in 1972-1975, she resumed her civic and educational work in New Bedford, eventually earning appointment as head of the Commonwealth’s Office for Children under Michael Dukakis in 1983. With a keen awareness of the historical importance of the civil rights struggle, Clark became a key organizer of an oral history project during the 1990s that included her fellow veterans of the civil rights movement in northern Mississippi. The results are available digitally through the University of Southern Mississippi.
Documenting the evolution of one activist’s career, the Clark Papers offer valuable information on the Freedom Summer and Freedom Schools in northern Mississippi, particularly in Tippah and Benton Counties, and civil rights activism more generally. The collection includes communiques among civil rights workers in the region, a variety of correspondence, pamphlets, newsletters, and ephemera, plus a small, but noteworthy collection of photographs. Of particular significance among the later materials is a thick body of material from the Draft Information Center in New Bedford (1967-1968), the Vietnam Summer project (1967), and relating to Clark’s role in the Harvard Strike of 1969.
- American Friends Service Committee
- Civil Rights movements--Mississippi
- Council of Federated Organizations (U.S.)
- Draft resisters--Massachusetts
- Harvard University--Student strike, 1969
- Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party
- Mississippi Freedom Project
- Peace movements--Masachusetts
- Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (U.S.)
- Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements--Massachusetts
Types of material
Connecticut Valley Breeders Association Records, 1908-1947 (Bulk: 1908-1930).
Call no.: MS 425
Established in Northampton, Mass., in May 1908, the Connecticut Valley Breeders Association was part of the burgeoning Progressive-era movement to apply scientific principles to improve agriculture. In its charter, the CVBA announced the ambitious goal of promoting “the live stock development of the Connecticut Valley and as far as possible the entire New England states in every way as affecting its educational, economic, legislative, health or other influences.” Led by Oren C. Burt of Easthampton, and George E. Taylor of Shelburne (its first President), it sponsored lectures and other information sessions that attracted as many as 500 attendees at its peak of popularity. Although the organization appears to have waned in the period of the First World War, it was revived in 1925 and four years later, the new Hampshire Herd Improvement Association assumed many of its functions.
This slender ledger records the minutes of the Connecticut Valley Breeders Association from its founding in 1908 through about 1930. In addition to the constitution and by-laws of both the CVBA and HHIA, the ledger includes minutes of the organizations’ meetings from 1908-1930, with a gap from 1916-1925. The collection is accompanied by a U.S. Department of Agriculture pamphlet, Cow Testers Handbook (1924).
- Burt, Oren C.
- Connecticut Valley Breeders Association
- Hampshire Herd Improvement Association
- Taylor, George E.
Types of material
- Minute books
Silvio O. Conte Papers, 1950-1991.
Call no.: MS 371
Massachusetts State Senator for the Berkshire District, 1950-1958, and representative for Massachusetts’s First District in the United States Congress for 17 terms, 1959-1991, where he made significant contributions in the areas of health and human services, the environment, education, energy, transportation, and small business.
Spanning four decades and eight presidents, the papers offer an extraordinary perspective on the major social, economic, and cultural changes experienced by the American people. Includes correspondence, speeches, press releases, bill files, his voting record, committee files, scrapbooks, travel files, audio-visual materials and over 5,000 photographs and slides.
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
- Massachusetts. Senate
- United States--Politics and government--20th century
- United States. Congress. House
- Conte, Silvio O. (Silvio Oltavio), 1921-1991
Types of material
- Sound recordings
Robert Fowler Diary, 1831-1854.
Call no.: MS 174
A native of Salisbury, Massachusetts, Robert Fowler (b.1805) was a prosperous shipbuilder and merchant with a trade extending from Nova Scotia to the Gulf South. He and his wife Susan Edwards, whom he married in 1830, had at least four children.
Kept by Robert Fowler between 1831 and 1854, the volume includes both diary entries (primarily 1841-1846) and accounts. With occasional commentary on local political matters, commerce, weather, and family matters, the diary is largely a record of Fowler’s spiritual concerns and his wrestling with doctrinal matters and the relationship of religion and daily life. An ardent temperance man, he commented on religious topics ranging from the Millerite movement to the resurrection, salvation, and the duty of prayer.
- Fitch, Charles, 1805-1844
- Millerite movement
- Religious life--Massachusetts--Salisbury
- Salisbury (Mass.)--History
- Second Advent
Types of material
- Account books
Elizabeth Henderson Papers, 1966-2011.
Call no.: MS 746
A farmer, activist, and writer, Elizabeth Henderson has exerted an enormous influence on the movement for organic and sustainable agriculture since the 1970s. Although Henderson embarked on an academic career after completing a doctorate at Yale on the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky in 1974, by 1980, she abandoned academia for Unadilla Farm in Gill, Mass., where she learned organic techniques for raising vegetables. Relocating to Rose Valley Farm in Wayne County, NY, in 1989, she helped establish Genesee Valley Organic CSA (GVOCSA), one of the first in the country, and she continued the relationship with the CSA after founding Peacework Organic Farm in Newark, NY, in 1998. Deeply involved in the organic movement at all levels, Henderson was a founding member of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) in Massachusetts, has served on the Board of Directors for NOFA NY, the NOFA Interstate Council, SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) Northeast, and many other farming organizations at the state, regional, and national level, and she has been an important voice in national discussions on organic standards, fair trade, and agricultural justice. Among other publications, Henderson contributed to and edited The Real Dirt: Farmers Tell about Organic and Low-Input Practices in the Northeast and co-wrote Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (1999, with Robyn Van En) and A Manual of Whole Farm Planning (2003, with Karl North).
Offering insight into the growth of the organic agriculture movement and the organizations that have sustained it, the Henderson Papers document Henderson’s involvement with NOFA, SARE, and the GVOCSA, along with her work to establish organic standards and promote organic practices. Henderson’s broad social and political commitments are represented by a rich set of letters from her work educating prisoners in the late 1970s, including correspondence with Tiyo Atallah Salah El and John Clinkscales, and with the American Independent Movement in New Haven during the early 1970s, including a nearly complete run of the AIM Bulletin and its successor Modern Times.
- American Independent Movement (Conn.)
- Community Supported Agriculture
- Genesee Valley Organic
- Northeast Organic Farming Association
- Organic farming
- Peacework Organic Farm (Newark, N.Y.)
- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program
- Clinkscale, John
- Salah El, Tiyo Atallah
Types of material