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)
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
Aurin F. Hill Papers, 1885-1929.
Call no.: MS 579
The self-styled “insane architect” Aurin F. Hill (b. 1853) was a free thinking carpenter and architect in Boston who waged a concerted campaign for his vision of social reform at the turn of the twentieth century. A Spiritualist, social radical, and union man, Hill carried the torch for issues ranging from the nationalization of railroads and corporations to civil rights and women’s rights, and joined in opposition to vaccination, Comstockery and censorship, capital punishment, and lynching. A writing medium, married to the Spiritual evangelist Izetta Sears-Hill, he became President of the National Spiritual Alliance in 1915, a Spiritualist organization based in Lake Pleasant, Mass.
Esoteric, rambling, and often difficult to follow, the Hill papers provide profound insight into the eclectic mind of an important Boston Spiritualist and labor activist at the turn of the twentieth century. Whether written as a diary or scattered notes, a scrapbook, essays, or letters to the editor, Hill’s writings cover a wide range of topics, from spirit influence to labor law, from his confinements for insanity to police strikes, hypnotism, reincarnation, and housing. More than just a reflection of one man’s psychology, the collection reveals much about broader social attitudes toward gender and race, sexuality, urban life, politics, and religion, and the collection is a particularly important resource for the history of the American Spiritualist movement between 1890 and 1920.
- Boston (Mass.)--History
- Carpenters--Labor unions
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Lake Pleasant (Mass.)--History
- Montague (Mass.)--History
- National Spiritual Alliance
- United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
- Hill, Aurin F.
- Sears-Hill, Izetta B.
Types of material
David R. Inglis Papers, 1929-2003 (Bulk: 1946-1980).
Call no.: FS 033
David R. Inglis enjoyed a distinguished career in nuclear physics that ranged from theoretical work on the structure of the nucleus in the 1930s to the development of the atomic bomb in the 1940s and work on renewable energy in the 1960s and 1970s. A Professor of Physics at UMass from 1969-1975, Inglis was a founding member of the Federation of American Scientists and from the mid-1940s on, he dedicated himself to informing public policy on the dangers of nuclear technologies.
The Inglis Papers offer a perspective on the life and career of a theoretical physicist who grew from an early involvement in the Manhattan Project to becoming a committed critic of nuclear weaponry and nuclear power. Although the collection is relatively sparse in unpublished scientific work, it includes valuable correspondence relating to Inglis’s efforts with the Federation of American Scientists and other organizations to influence public policy on issues relating to disarmament and nuclear power.
- Allegiance--United States
- Argonne National Laboratories
- Condon, Edward Uhler, 1902-1974
- Federation of American Scientists
- Los Alamos National Laboratory
- Nuclear disarmament
- Nuclear energy
- Nuclear warfare
- Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967
- United States--History--1945-1953
- United States--History--1953-1961
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Physics
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Institute for Man and His Environment
- World Association of World Federalists
- World Federation of Scientific Workers
- Bohr, Aage
- Inglis, David Rittenhouse, 1905-
- Teller, Edward, 1908-2003
- Wigner, Eugene Paul, 1902-1995
Types of material
- Laboratory notes
- Oral histories
Paul S. Kahn Papers, 1964-2009.
Call no.: MS 786
An artist, writer, and activist for the disabled, Paul S. Kahn was born on Nov. 6, 1945, into a second-generation family of Jewish immigrants in Auburndale, Mass. Early in life, Kahn rebelled against the perceived “powerlessness” of the neuromuscular disorder with which he was born, pursuing an artistic, academic, and activist life. While studying drawing, painting, and sculpture at Boston University and earning a MA in counseling at Northeastern (1982), Kahn became an activist in the independent living movement and a pioneer in advocating for personal care assistance. Living independently from 1979, he worked as staff therapist at the Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center, as leader of a support group for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and as a member of the Massachusetts Governor’s Advisory Commission on Disability Policy. In 1980, Kahn met Ruth Stern, who would become his frequent collaborator and wife of 21 years. As Kahn’s physical condition weakened after 1987 and he became dependent upon a ventilator, his creative focus shifted increasingly from art to writing and editing. The last two decades of his life were remarkably productive, resulting in over twenty plays and dozens of published essays and poems, and he was the long-time editor of the newsletter Disability Issues. Kahn died on Jan. 1, 2010.
Paul Kahn’s papers are a reflection of the intensely creative life of a committed activist. The collection centers on Kahn’s literary work, including manuscripts of his plays, essays, and poetry, but it includes numerous examples of his artwork and a number of home movies and tape recordings from his childhood.
- People with disabilities and the arts
- People with disabilities--Civil rights
Types of material
- Paintings (Visual works)