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.
Daniel M. J. and Joyce Stokes Papers, 1984-1996.
Call no.: MS 661
From 1987 through early 1988, Daniel and Joyce Stokes published Into the Night, “a newsletter for freedom for political prisoners held in the United States.” Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., this simply-produced publication offered updates and commentary on Americans imprisoned for politically-motivated acts. Reflecting both the legacy of 1960s radicalism and the resurgent activism associated with U.S. imperialism in Central America, Into the Night offered news on the Ohio 7 sedition trial, the MOVE organization, and the fate of Plowshares war resisters.
The Stokes collection contains correspondence from subscribers and supporters of Into the Night, fleshing out their political philosophy and the conditions of imprisonment. Drawn from groups including the MOVE organization, the United Freedom Front, Black Liberation Army, and Plowshares, the correspondents include Ramona Africa, Alberto Aranda, Philip Berrigan, Marilyn Buck, Carl Kabat, Ray Luc Levasseur, Ruchell Cinque Magee, and Carol Manning. The collection also includes copies of other radical publications and a complete run of Into the Night itself.
- African American prisoners
- African American radicals
- Anti-imperialist movements
- Into the Night
- MOVE (Group)
- Ohio 7
- Political prisoners
- United Freedom Front
- Africa, Ramona
- Aranda, Alberto
- Berrigan, Philip
- Buck, Marilyn
- Gelabert, Ana Lucia
- Hernandez, Alvaro L
- Kabat, Carl
- Levasseur, Ray Luc
- Magee, Ruchell Cinque
- Stokes, Daniel M. J.
- Stokes, Joyce
Types of material
UMass Amherst. Academic Affairs, 1864-2007.
Call no.: RG 6
Responsibility for academic affairs at Massachusetts Agricultural College initially fell to the college President, however in 1906, the Board of Trustees created the office of Dean of the College to oversee issues relating to student attendance, scholarship standing, the enforcement of faculty rules, and general student discipline. In 1953, the office of Provost was created to provide leadership in all areas of academic activity, and in 1970, the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost became the chief academic officer of the campus, responsible for advising the Chancellor on the whole of the University’s academic program.
The bulk of the record group consists of the files of individual Deans of the College, Provosts, and Vice Chancellors for Academic Affairs, as well as the University Year for Action (1971-1976). Also included are the records of the interim and special appointees that report to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost, and the special programs, committees, institutes, and centers that were initiated by or developed from those offices.
- College students--Massachusetts
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Office of Academic Affairs
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Office of Information Technology
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Office of International Programs
UMass Amherst. Continuing Education, 1970-2007.
Call no.: RG 7
The Division of Continuing Education was established in 1970 as the de facto academic outreach arm of the University. Designed to improve access to the academic resources of the University for part-time students, this entailed both the development of a specialized admissions process and an integrated counseling, advising, registration, and records operation geared to the needs of part-time students. The Division continues to provide specialized services and programming for part-time students including Tutoring Enrichment Assistance Model for Public School Students (TEAMS) and the Arts Extension Service, which acts as a catalyst between the fine arts resources of the University and the people in the Commonwealth.
The record group documents the activities of the Division of Continuing Education (1970-2007), Everywoman’s Center — including the Women of Color Leadership Network (1971-2007), and the University Conference Services (1906-2007).
- Continuing education
- Everywoman's Center
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Arts Extension Service
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Division of Continuing Education
- Women of Color Leadership Network
UMass Amherst. Graduate School, 1896-2007.
Call no.: RG 10
The University of Massachusetts Amherst has offered graduate education since 1896, awarding more than 11,360 doctoral and 37,480 master’s degrees. With a graduate faculty of 1,100 (2006), the Amherst campus offers 50 programs leading to a doctorate and 68 programs toward a master’s degree.
Included in the records of the Graduate School are files related to the the Dean of the School, its graduate programs, and the records of the Boston Office of the University Press.
- Graduate students--Massachusetts
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Graduate School
- University of Massachusetts Press
Roberta Uno Collection of Asian American Women Playwrights' Scripts, 1924-2005.
Call no.: MS 345
Roberta Uno was the founder and long time artistic director of the New WORLD Theater at UMass Amherst, a theater in residence dedicated to the production of works by playwrights of color.
Established by Uno in 1993, the Asian American Women Playwrights Scripts Collection contains manuscripts of plays, but also production histories, reviews, and articles, along with biographies and audio and videotaped interviews with playwrights. Among the individuals represented are Brenda Wong Aoki, Jeannie Barroga, Marina Feleo Gonzales, Jessica Hagedorn, Velina Hasu Houston, Genny Lim, le thi diem thuy, Ling-Ai Li, Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, Nobuko Miyamoto, Bina Sharif, and Diana Son.
- Asian American women authors
- New WORLD Theater
- Uno, Roberta, 1956-
Types of material
- Scripts (Documents)
Valley Peace Center Records, 1965-1973.
Call no.: MS 301
In the summer of 1967, members of University of Massachusetts Amherst campus groups, such as the Faculty Group on War and Peace and the Students for Political Action, joined with individuals from other area colleges and from the community at large to form the Valley Peace Center of Amherst for the purposes of opposing the Vietnam War, providing draft counseling, eliciting pledges from the government to avoid first use of nuclear and biological weapons, and reduction of the power of the “military-industrial complex”. The Center was active for more than five and a half years, drawing its financial support largely from the community and its human resources from student and community volunteers.
Correspondence, minutes, volunteer and membership lists, financial records, newsletters, questionnaires, notes, petitions, clippings, posters, circulars, pamphlets, periodicals, other printed matter, and memorabilia. Includes material relating to alternative service, boycotts, war tax resistance, prison reform, environmental quality, and political candidates.
- Amherst (Mass.)--Social conditions--20th century
- Draft--United States--History
- Peace movements--Massachusetts--Amherst
- Social movements--Massachusetts--Amherst
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements--Massachusetts--Amherst
- Westover Air Force Base (Mass.)--History--20th century
- Valley Peace Center (Amherst, Mass.)
Types of material
Frederick V. Waugh Collection, 1917-1919.
Call no.: PH 026
In July 1917, prior to the American entry in the First World War, Frederick Vail Waugh joined a group of about fifty residents of Amherst, Mass., who enlisted for duty in the Ambulance Service of the French Army. From August 1917 through April 1919, SSU 39 (Service Sanitaire Unis) — redesignated SSU 539 and transferred to the American Expeditionary Service in January 1918 — served among the trenches of northern France and Belgium. Known as the Black Cat squadron, they took part in three major offensives with the AEF, the Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne, and Ypres-Lys. Waugh was among three members of the unit awarded the French Croix de Guerre for courage and energy during the last month of the war. After returning to the states, Waugh earned a bachelor’s degree from Massachusetts Agricultural College (1922), where his father Frank A. Waugh was a Professor of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, followed by an MA from Rutgers (1926) and PhD from Columbia (1929). He enjoyed a distinguished fifty year career as an agricultural economist with the US Department of Agriculture.
A snapshot of life in the First World War, the Waugh collection includes Frederick Waugh’s army jacket (with Croix de Guerre), helmet, and puttees, and a remarkable history of the unit and photo album, Being the Book of S.S.U. 539. A second book, I Was There with the Yanks in France (1919) has been transferred for shelving to the Rare Books stacks.
- Ambulance drivers--United States
- United States. Army Ambulance Service. Section 539
- World War, 1914-1918--Medical care
- Waugh, Frederick V. (Frederick Vail), 1898-1974
Wendell Post Collection, 1977-2001.
Call no.: MS 762
From 1977 through 2001, the Wendell Post newspaper was published by and for the residents of Wendell, Mass. With its distinctive local perspective, the Post covered local politics, people, and events, but also issues with national implications, including the anti-nuclear movement, environmental concerns, recycling, and peacework.
The Wendell Post collection contains nearly every issue of a community newspaper produced in a small, rural New England town. Most issues include reports on town meetings and elections, the schools, and public works, but the Post also carried news of the stuff of daily life such as births and deaths, high school graduations, anniversaries and Old Home Day, profiles of town residents and town history, and the crime report.
- New Salem (Mass.)--History
- Wendell (Mass.)--History
Western Massachusetts Library Club Records, 1898-2006.
Call no.: MS 492
Situated in a region known for its progressive spirit, the Western Massachusetts Library Club was established in 1898 to respond to the unique needs of librarians overseeing small or rural libraries, and to foster camaraderie among local colleagues. Almost immediately, however, the club expanded its focus, taking positions on issues ranging from modern library practices to national legislation and leading the way in the expansion of services for public libraries, all while maintaining its identity as an advocate for local libraries and librarians.
The collection is richest in records that document the early history of the club including detailed meeting minutes, news clippings, programs, and circulars. Beginning in the late 1960s, the club’s activities are captured primarily through membership lists and meeting notices and programs. Taken together, the records trace the growth of the WMLC for more than a century from its establishment to the present.
- Cutter, Charles A. (Charles Ammi), 1937-1903
- Western Massachusetts Library Club