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.
UAW District 65 Collection, ca.1985.
Call no.: MS 320
The decision of clerical and technical workers at Boston University to organize with District 65 of the UAW was as rooted in the labor movement as it was in the womens movement. By the early 1970s, office workers at B.U. were dissatsified with working conditions that included — among other grievances — sexual harassment and a classification system that did not value “women’s work.” In 1979 after an intense struggle with the administration, B.U. finally recognized the union and signed their first contract.
The collection includes a printed history and videotape documenting unionization activities at Boston University’s Medical Campus.
- Boston University. Medical Campus
- Collective bargaining--Professions--Massachusetts--Boston
- Collective labor agreements--Medical personnel --Massachusetts--Boston--History
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- United Automobile, Aircraft, and Vehicle Workers of America. District 65
Types of material
United Hatters, Cap and Millinery Workers International Union Local 4 Records, 1945-1995.
Call no.: MS 415
The United Hatters, Cap and Millinery Workers International Union (UHCMW) was formed in 1934 by the merger of the United Hatters of North America and the Cloth Hat, Cap and Millinery Workers International Union, settling deep rifts between the competing unions. For five decades, the UHCMW organized the declining hat and millinery trade in the United States until it merged into the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) in 1983, which merged in 1995 into the International Ladies Garment Workers Union to form UNITE (Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees).
The collection documents UHCMW Local 4, representing workers in Boston and Framingham, from 1945 through the time of its merger into the ACTWU. The series of ledgers and documents in the collection include documents concerning health and retirement benefits for union members, bargaining agreements, and financial records for the local, as well as a small assortment of correspondence, memoranda, and minutes of meetings.
- Hat trade--Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- United Hatters, Cap, and Millinery Workers International Union
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
Social Change Periodicals Collection, 1969-2006.
Call no.: MS 306
The Social Change Periodical Collection was created to bring together magazines, newsletters, and newspapers that deal with a variety of activist movements from different sources under one heading where they could be reviewed as a whole. Since the core of the collection was transferred from the Everywoman’s Center many of the periodicals deal with feminism and women’s issues. Other subjects represented in the collection include antiracism, antiwar, gay rights, political radicalism, and environmental activism.
- African Americans--Suffrage--Periodicals
- Central America--Politics and government--Periodicals
- Gay liberation movement--Periodicals
- Labor--United States--Periodicals
- Prisons--United States--Periodicals
- Radicalism--United States--Periodicals
Edward H. Abbe Papers, 1828-2004.
Call no.: MS 736
Born in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1915 and raised largely in Hampton, Va., Edward Abbe seemed destined to be an engineer. The great nephew of Elihu Thomson, an inventor and founding partner in General Electric, and grandson of Edward Folger Peck, an early employee of a precursor of that firm, Abbe came from a family with a deep involvement in electrification and the development of street railways. After prepping at the Rectory and Kent Schools, Abbe studied engineering at the Sheffield School at Yale, and after graduation in 1938, accepted a position with GE. For 36 years, he worked in the Industrial Control Division in New York and Virginia, spending summers at the family home on Martha’s Vineyard. After retirement in 1975, he and his wife Gladys traveled frequently, cruising both the Atlantic and Pacific.
Ranging from an extensive correspondence from his high school and college days to materials relating to his family’s involvement in engineering, the Abbe collection offers an in depth perspective on an educated family. An avid traveler and inveterate keeper, Ed Abbe gathered a diverse assemblage of letters, diaries, and memorabilia relating to the history of the Abbe, Peck, Booth, Gifford, and Boardman families. The collection is particularly rich in visual materials, including albums and photographs, depicting homes, travel, and family life over nearly a century.
- Abbe family
- Boardman family
- Booth family
- Electrical engineers
- General Electric
- Gifford family
- Kent School--Students
- Peck family
- Rectory School--Students
- Yale University--Students
- Abbe, Edward H
- Abbe, Gladys Howard
- Abbe, William Parker
- Peck, Edward F
- Peck, Mary Booth
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
The acquisition of the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois in 1972 established SCUA as a center for research in African American history. In subsequent years, the University of Massachusetts has supported the publication of three volumes of Dr. Du Bois’ correspondence and SCUA has served as a resource for many dozens of scholarly articles and books on Du Bois and his legacy. SCUA has also made efforts to build around the Du Bois collection, adding other important printed and manuscript materials both in African American history and in the history of efforts to promote social change.
Beyond Du Bois, significant collections in African American history include the papers of the abolitionist Hudson Family of Northampton, the expatriate playwright Gordon Heath, the sociologist, educator, and former president of Lincoln University, Horace Mann Bond.
Each February, in commemoration of Dr. Du Bois’s birthday, SCUA and the Du Bois Department of Afro-Americans Studies at UMass co-sponsor a colloquium on Du Bois and his legacy. Our lecturers have included distinguished scholars such as Herbert Aptheker, Randolph Bromery, Clayborne Carson, and David Levering Lewis.
- Antislavery Pamphlet Collection
- Several hundred pamphlets relating to political antislavery in the United States, with an emphasis opn New England.
- See our Antislavery pamphlets digital archive
- Aronson, James. Collection, 1946-1983
- Editor of the National Guardian
- Banks, Katherine Bell. Papers, 1926-1960.
- Letters from W.E.B. Du Bois to Banks, a family friend
- Bond, Horace Mann. Papers, 1830-1979
- Educator, President of Lincoln University
- Brown, John. Papers (microfilm), 1826-1942 (bulk: 1856-1859)
- Du Bois, W. E. B. Papers, 1868-1963
- Heath, Gordon. Papers, 1940-1991
- Expatriate writer, actor, director, and musician
- Hudson Family. Papers, 1780-1955
- Family papers of the antislavery activist Erasmus D. Hudson
- International Oil Working Group. Records, 1981-1986
- Massachusetts. Special Commission on Unequal Education Opportunities. Records, 1974-1978
- Obrebski, Joseph and Tamara. Papers, 1923-1974
- Anthropological field work in Jamaica, 1947-1948
- Urban League of Springfield (Mass.). Records, 1970s
- Trent, Lloyd A. Family Papers, 1850-1996
ACWA Boston Joint Board Records, 1926-1979.
Call no.: MS 002
The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America originated from a split in the United Garment Workers in 1914 and quickly became the dominant force for union in the men’s clothing industry, controlling shops in Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, and New York. The Boston Joint Board formed at the beginning of the ACWA and included locals from a range of ethnic groups and trades that comprised the industry. It coordinated the activities and negotiations for ACWA Locals 1, 12, 102, 149, 171, 172, 173, 174, 181,183, 267, and 335 in the Boston area. In the 1970s the Boston Joint Board merged with others to form the New England Regional Joint Board.
Records, including minutes, contracts, price lists, and scrapbooks, document the growth and maturity of the ACWA in Boston and the eventual decline of the industry in New England. Abundant contracts and price lists show the steady improvement of conditions for workers in the men’s clothing industry. Detailed minutes reflect the political and social influence of the ACWA; the Joint Board played an important role in local and state Democratic politics and it routinely contributed to a wide range of social causes including the Home for Italian Children and the United Negro College Fund. Minutes also document the post World War II development of industrial relations in the industry and include information relating to Joint Board decisions to strike. Minutes also contain information relating to shop grievances, arbitration, shop committees, and organizing. The records largely coincide with the years of leadership of Joseph Salerno, ACWA Vice President and New England Director from 1941 to 1972.
- Boston (Mass.)--Economic conditions--20th century
- Clothing trade--Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Labor unions--Massachusetts--Boston
- Textile industry--Massachusetts
- Textile workers--Labor unions--Massachusetts--Boston
- Textile workers--Massachusetts--Economic conditions--20th century
- Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. Boston Joint Board
- Salerno, Joseph, fl. 1907-1972
Types of material
- Financial records
American Watch Company Band Engagement Book, 1878-1883.
Call no.: MS 364
Band of musicians who worked at the Waltham Watch Company in Waltham, Massachusetts. Engagement book itemizes engagement dates and locations, and membership (including recent immigrants), and includes information about rehearsals, business meetings, and payment.
- American Watch Company--Employees--Recreation
- American Watch Company--Employees--Social life and customs
- American Watch Company--History
- Brass bands--Massachusetts--Waltham
- Industrial recreation--Massachusetts--Waltham
- Waltham (Mass.)--Social conditions--19th century
- American Watch Company. Band
- South Side Brass Band (Waltham, Mass.)
Types of material
- Appointment books
George W. Barton Papers, 1889-1984 (Bulk: 1914-1920).
Call no.: RG 50 B37
George W. Barton was born in Sudbury, Massachusetts in 1896. After attending Concord High School in Concord, Barton began his studies in horticulture and agriculture at Massachusetts Agricultural College in Amherst. The collection includes diaries, scrapbooks, photographs, newspaper clippings, programs, announcements, and his herbarium, and relates primarily to his career at the Massachusetts Agricultural College where he studied horticulture and agriculture from 1914-1918.
- Botany--Study and teaching
- Horticulture--Study and teaching
- Massachusetts Agricultural College--Students
- Barton, George W
Types of material