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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.

Learn more:

Social Change Collection

Social Change Collection, 1953-1980
4 boxes (2 linear feet)
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).

Subjects
  • Anti-imperialist movements
  • Peace movements
  • Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements--Massachusetts
Student holding academic gown adorned with Black Power symbol, 1970
Barn

Each fall, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives sponsors a colloquium focusing on a topic in social change. Like SCUA’s collections, these colloquia cover a broad terrain, touching on a variety of issues in social justice, equality, and democracy.

Colloquia are free and open to the public.

Colloquium 2015, (Friday, April 8, 2016)
Documenting Punk: Writing, preserving, watching and listening to the history of an American cultural movement
Documenting punk

April 8, 2016, from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Room 163, UMass Campus Center

Punk, one of the last major youth sub-cultures during the pre-Internet era, was also a decentralized national and international community linked mostly by recordings, zines and the touring of bands. Individual scenes developed across the country in major urban areas, suburban communities and small towns. While each had its own personality and bands, they were linked by a shared distrust of establishment institutions and commercialized popular culture.

In recent years, punk archives have been established at academic repositories and as a result, scholars and the broader public have access to stories that have before only been shared within the punk community. Efforts have also been made to chronicle the history of the movement through the making of films, books and oral histories. The colloquium aims to open a conversation about the documentation of punk. The panel will explore questions including: How can the anti-establishment, anti-institutional, do-it-yourself ethos of punk be reconciled with the desire to collect, preserve and academically study the movement? How can the needs of community access be balanced with the demands of proper conservation? Can the ways scholars, archivists and librarians document a community be reconciled with the ways the movement documents itself?

Keynote speaker Dr. Michael Stewart Foley is the author of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables and Front Porch Politics, The Forgotten Heyday of American Activism in the 1970s and 1980s. Foley is a professor of American Political Culture and Political Theory at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He is also a founding editor of The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics, and Culture.

Event speakers also include Ramdasha Bikceem, Byron Coley, Lisa Darms, Michael T. Fournier, Deward MacLeod, Sara Marcus and Tanya Pearson. For full speaker bios, visit: www.punkhistory.org.

The colloquium is free and open to the public. RSVP at: http://bit.ly/punksignup The event is co-sponsored by the UMass Amherst Libraries, UMass Amherst Department of History, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and Social Thought & Political Economy (STPEC).

Sroka Family

Sroka Family Papers, 1842-1960
1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 216

Polish family who emigrated to the United States in 1912-1913 and settled in Chicopee, Massachusetts, working in meat packing firms and textile factories, and also as seamstresses and farmers.

Includes birth and wedding certificates, military and employment documentation, residential and passport applications, photographs, and lists of baptisms, weddings, and deaths. Also contains a family history written by Gary Sroka, correspondence, payment book for the Society of St. Joseph (Chicopee, Massachusetts), and a news clipping. All materials exist as photocopies and are written primarily in Polish, German, and Hungarian, though some are in English, Ukrainian, and Russian.

Subjects
  • Chicopee (Mass.)--History
  • Immigrants--Massachusetts
  • Polish Americans--Massachusetts

St. Stanislaus Society (Tuners Falls, Mass.)

St. Stanislaus Society Records, 1959-1969
2 vols. (0.15 linear feet)
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.

Subjects
  • Fraternal organizations--Massachusetts
  • Polish Americans--Massachusetts--Turners Falls
  • Turners Falls (Mass.)--History
Contributors
  • St. Stanislaus Society (Tuners Falls, Mass.)
Types of material
  • Account books

Stetson, William B.

William B. Stetson Account book, 1856-1870
1 vol. (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 348 bd

As a young man in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, William B. Stetson (b. ca.1836) earned a living by performing manual labor for local residents. Most of his work, and increasingly so, was found in the range of tasks associated with lumbering: chopping wood, sawing boards, making shingles and fence boards. By 1870, Stetson was listed in the federal census as a lumberman in the adjacent town of Leverett.

Stetson’s rough-hewn book of accounts provides detail on the work and expenditures of a young man from Shutesbury, Massachusetts, in the years just prior to the Civil War. Carefully kept, but idiosyncratic, they document a working class mans efforts to earn a living by whatever means possible, largely in lumber-related tasks. His accounts list a number of familiar local names, including Albert Pratt, Sylvanus Pratt, Charles Pratt, Charles Nutting, E. Cushman, John Haskins, and J. Stockwell. Set into the front of the volume are a set of work records dated in Leverett in 1870, by which time Stetson had apparently focused his full energies on lumbering.

Subjects
  • Leverett (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Lumber trade--Massachusetts--Leverett
  • Lumber trade--Massachusetts--Shutesbury
  • Shutesbury (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
Contributors
  • Stetson, William B.
Types of material
  • Account books

Stinson, Mary B.

Mary B. Stinson Collection, 1974-1981
2 boxes (1.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 824
Mary B. Stinson Collection image

Throughout the 1970s, Mary B. Stinson (formerly Lindblom) was an active member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in California and served as a delegate to the First National Women’s Conference in Houston.

The collection includes several ephemeral objects reflecting Stinson’s activism including IWY pendant necklaces and an ERA license plate frame, along with published reports and articles relating to the IWY and a 1979 NOW conference in California.

Subjects
  • Equal rights amendments
  • Feminism--United States
  • International Women's Year Conference
  • National Organization for Women
  • Women's rights--United States
Contributors
  • Stinson, Mary B.

Stocking, George, 1784-1864

George Stocking Account Book, 1815-1850
1 vol. (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 486 bd

The shoemaker George Stocking was born on May 23, 1784, on his family’s farm in Ashfield, Mass., the second son of Abraham and Abigail (Nabby) Stocking. At 25, George married Ann Toby (1790-1835) from nearby Conway, with whom he had nine children, followed by two more children with his second wife, the widow Mary Jackson Shippey, whom he married on Dec. 16, 1840. George succeeded Amos Stocking, his uncle, in the tanning and shoemaking business at Pittsfield, Mass., where he died on Christmas day 1864.

George Stocking’s double column account book documents almost 35 years of the economic activity of a shoemaker in antebellum Ashfield, Massachusetts. Although the entries are typically very brief, recording making, mending, tapping, capping, or heeling shoes and boots, among other things, they provide a dense and fairly continuous record of his work. They also reveal the degree to which Stocking occasionally engaged in other activities to earn a living, including mending harnesses and other leatherwork to performing agricultural labor. The book includes accounts with Charles Knowlton, the local physician was was famous as a freethinker and atheist and author of Fruits of Philosophy, his book on contraception that earned him conviction on charges of obscenity and a sentence of three months at hard labor.

Subjects
  • Ashfield (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Knowlton, Charles, 1800-1850
  • Shoemakers--Massachusetts--Ashfield
Contributors
  • Stocking, George, 1784-1864
Types of material
  • Account books

Storrsville (Mass.) Lyceum Debating Society

Storrsville Lyceum Debating Society Minutebook, 1842-1846
1 box (0.25 linear feet)
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.

Subjects
  • 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

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
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