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)
Ray Ethan Torrey Papers, 1832-1983.
Call no.: FS 121
A plant morphologist and member of the Botany Department at Massachusetts Agricultural College, Ray Ethan Torrey was among the college’s most charismatic faculty members during the early twentieth century. Born in Leverett, Mass., and educated in the local public schools, Torrey graduated from MAC with the class of 1912, earning his PhD at Harvard six years later. After serving on the faculty of Grove City College and Wesleyan, he returned to his alma mater in 1919, where he remained for more than 36 years. A specialist in plant morphology and author or two widely used textbooks and numerous articles, Torrey’s introductory course in botany was among the most popular in the college. He was best known, however, for taking a broader, philosophical approach to science that encouraged students to explore the connections between philosophy, science, religion, and the humanities. Torrey died of leukemia in Boston on Jan. 16, 1956.
Correspondence, chiefly with former students and colleagues at other institutions; lecture notes and outlines; 27 pen and ink drawings; published writings and drawings; biographical material; class and laboratory notes taken by students; family and educational records (1832-1956); photographs, and other papers.
- Botany--Study and teaching
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Botany Department
- Torrey, Ray Ethan, 1887-
Types of material
- Pen and ink drawings
Karl Richards Wallace Papers, 1898-1976.
Call no.: FS 086
Educator, rhetorician, author, President of the Speech Association of America in 1954, and Professor of Speech at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1968-1973.
Includes the accumulated research notes and materials written and used by Wallace in his career as a teacher and author; drafts, reprints, and proofs of his speeches, papers, articles, and books, both published and unpublished, often with accompanying correspondence, research notes, and/or contracts; lecture notes and classroom materials dating from his years as a student through those as a teacher; drafts and reprints of papers and articles by students and colleagues; correspondence; the reports, memoranda, correspondence, resolutions, agenda, notes on meetings, minutes, committee recommendations, position papers, newsletters, audit reports, budget recommendations, membership lists, itineraries, and programs indicative of his leadership and active participation in the Speech Association of America and other professional organizations, conferences, and university committees.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of English
- Wallace, Karl Richards, 1905-1973
William Wheeler Papers, 1876-1930.
Call no.: RG 002/3 W54
The civil engineer William Wheeler was a member of the first graduating class of Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1871, and was one of its most prominent alumni of the nineteenth century. In 1876, Wheeler joined MAC President William Smith Clark and two other alumni of the college in helping to found the Sapporo Agricultural College in Japan (now Hokkaido University), succeeding Clark as president of SAP from 1877 to 1879. In later life, he was a successful hydraulic engineer and long-time trustee of MAC (1887-1929).
A small, tightly focused collection, the Wheeler Papers consist largely of letters written home by Wheeler while working at the Sapporo Agricultural College, 1876-1880. Typically long and descriptive, the letters include excellent accounts of travel in Japan and Wheeler’s impressions of Japanese culture, but they provide detailed insight as well into the work involved in establishing Sapporo Agricultural College.
- Clark, William Smith, 1826-1886
- Hokkaido (Japan)--Description and travel--19th century
- Hokkaido Daigaku
- Japan--Description and travel--19th century
- Massachusetts Agricultural College
- Penhallow, D. P. (David Pearce), 1854-1910
- Sapporo (Japan)--Description and travel--19th century
- Hudson, Woodward
- Wheeler, William, 1851-1932
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
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)
Ebenezer Akin Account Book, 1842-1869.
Call no.: MS 220 bd
Businessman, town clerk, owner or part-owner of many ships, merchant, lawyer, and involved citizen in the town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Includes activities as town clerk, accounts for ships he may have owned, entries made as the executor of several estates, accounts of expenditures for clothing and incidentals, and accounts of lot purchases and loans. Also contains genealogical information about the Blossom family of Bridgewater and the family of Benjamin and Eunice Akin.
- Akin, Benjamin, 1715-1802
- Akin, Eunice
- Blossom family
- Clothing and dress--Prices--Massachusetts--Fairhaven
- Fairhaven (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Fairhaven (Mass.)--Politics and government--19th century
- Hesper (Bark)
- Napoleon (Ship)
- William Rotch (Ship)
- Winthrop (Bark)
- Akin, Ebenezer, 1816-
Types of material
- Account books
- Inventories of decedents estates
Dean Albertson Papers, 1966-1968.
Call no.: FS 114
A long-time faculty member at UMass Amherst, Dean Albertson was a twentieth century U.S. historian with a specialty in oral history. A veteran of the Second World War, Albertson received his BA from University of California Berkeley (1942) and doctorate from Columbia (1955), joining the Department of History at UMass in 1965 after several years at Brooklyn College. Interested throughout his career in new methods in research and teaching history, he was author of books on Dwight Eisenhower, Claude Wickard (Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of Agriculture), and the student movements of the 1960s. Albertson died at his home in Longmeadow, Mass., on March 31, 1989, at the age of 68.
The Albertson Papers consist of the records of three summer institutes in history at UMass run during the summer 1966-1968, and funded by the National Defence Education Act (NDEA). Aimed at high school teachers of social sciences and history in western Massachusetts, the institutes were designed to provide in-service training and to expose teachers to newer material and techniques in teaching U.S. history. See also Dean Albertson’s collection of oral histories.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of History
- Albertson, Dean, 1920-
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
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