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African American history

Founders of the Niagara Movement, ca.1905

Founders of the Niagara Movement, ca.1905

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, UMass has supported publication of three volumes of Du Bois’ correspondence and SCUA has digitized the papers and made them freely available on the internet while serving as a resource for many dozens of scholarly articles and books. SCUA continues in its 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.

Every February, SCUA and the Du Bois Department of Afro-Americans Studies at UMass Amherst commemorate Du Bois’s birthday by co-sponsoring a public colloquium on Du Bois and his legacy. Our lecturers have included distinguished scholars such as Herbert and Bethina Aptheker, Randolph Bromery, Clayborne Carson, Arnold Rampersad, and David Levering Lewis.

Significant collections (view all)

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Mission and history

Mission

Cattle judging at Mass. Agricultural College
Judging cattle at Mass. Agricultural College

SCUA inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials for the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond, contributing to the vital conversation between past and future. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, services, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry; the production, exchange, and preservation of knowledge; and joy in learning.

Department history

African dancers
African dancers
From the Horace Mann Bond Papers

In 1931, nearly half a century after Librarian Henry Hill Goodell first authorized the permanent retention of the official records of Massachusetts Agricultural College, the Library established a College History Collection. Containing official records of the university’s administrators and faculty and reflecting the life of its students, the College History Collection grew steadily until in 1953, the Library dedicated a room named in honor of Dean William L. Machmer to serve as the first true home of the University Archives.

Goodell’s foresight in assembling the College archives coincided roughly with the university’s first efforts to build a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. As early as 1868 — just one year after the arrival of the first students — the college accepted the donation of twenty scarce volumes on bee culture from the apiculturist (and state Adjutant General) Henry K. Oliver. By the time the college issued its first library catalog in 1875, rare books were a small, but notable part of the collections, closely focused on the primary academic interests of the early college: agriculture, horticulture and botany, and the natural sciences. Included among the Library’s earliest acquisitions were the first London edition of William Bartram’s Travels Through North and South Carolina (1792), François Augier de Marigny’s The History of the Arabians (London, 1758), and early bee manuals by John Keys, The Practical Bee-Master (London, 1780) and The Antient Bee-Master’s Farewell (London, 1796) — both courtesy of Oliver. Each of these volumes remains part of the collections today.

David Axelrod, Class of 1965
David B. Axelrod, ca.1980, Class of 1965, poet, author of The Man who Fell in Love with His Chicken (1980)

From these beginnings, the collection of rare books and manuscripts has co-evolved with the university and its academic programs. In 1973, the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski marked an expansion of scope beyond into personal papers and organizational records of historical significance beyond the narrow confines of the university, and the arrival of the papers on W.E.B. Du Bois in that same year marked a turning point. The rare book and manuscript collections were merged with the University Archives in the early 1990s to form the current Department of Special Collections and University Archives.

SCUA’s initial foray online came with a simple page on the library’s website in 1997, and by 2007, it had evolved into the UMarmot project, one of the earliest efforts to use freely-available software to create a comprehensive online archival catalog. SCUA launched its online digital repository, Credo in 2011, with the generous support of the Verizon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. Available free to all researchers, Credo is now a robust and heavily used presence on the internet, containing hundreds of thousands of pages of content and dozens of complete collections, including every item in the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois and Horace Mann Bond.

Mile markers

Each of the library’s million-volume milestones has been celebrated by the addition of a special volume to SCUA’s collections:

One millionth volume:
Jonathan Edwards, A careful and strict enquiry into the modern prevailing notions of that freedom of will; which is supposed to be essential to moral agency, vertue and vice, reward and punishment, praise and blame. Boston: S. Kneeland, 1754.
SCUA’s copy of this classic theological work on Free Will from the New Light minister from Northampton belonged to Rev. John Cleaveland of Ipswich, Mass., one of the subscribers. It is signed and dated by Cleaveland in several locations.
Two millionth volume:
Phillis Wheatley, Poems on various subjects, religious and moral. London: A. Bell, 1773.
A classic of American literature written by a young woman enslaved in Boston, and the first book published by an African-American woman. Gift of Randolph W. Bromery.
Three millionth volume:
James Baldwin, Gypsy and other poems, with etched portraits by Leonard Baskin. Northampton, Mass.: Gehenna Press, 1989.
When Baldwin, a former faculty member at UMass Amherst, died unexpectedly, he was working with the great printer Leonard Baskin on a special volume of unpublished poems. Celebrating SCUA’s strengths in African American history literature and reflecting the fine-printing heritage in Massachusetts, SCUA’s copy includes a signed portfolio of etchings of Baldwin by Baskin, each signed. It is one of fifty copies bound specially by Daniel Gehnrich in leather and paste paper, made by Babette Gehnrich, over boards, and laid into a cloth traycase. Also laid in are Baskin’s proof, 1989, and touched proof, 1989, of two of the portraits. Gift of Lisa Baskin.
Four millionth volume:
The proclamation of emancipation of the President of the United States, to take effect January 1st, 1863. Boston: John Murray Forbes, 1862.
The first separate printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, this volume was printed in miniature so that Union army troops in the south could more easily distribute it.

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Sarti, Roland, 1937-

Roland Sarti Papers
1964-2002
11 boxes (5.25 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 011

Born in Montefegatesi, Italy, in April 1937, Roland Sarti began his academic career as a teaching assistant and instructor at Rutgers University from 1960-1964. In the fall of 1967, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Italian History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, becoming chair of the University Seminar on Studies in Modern Italy five years later. A scholar of the fascist movement in Italy, Sarti also wrote on topics ranging from rural life in the Apennines to the life of the revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini. During his tenure at UMass, he served on the Personnel, Curriculum, and Graduate Studies Committees, and played a prominent role in the Faculty Senate and the International Programs Office, particularly with respect to the summer programs in Italy. A past president of the New England Historical Society and the Society for Italian Historical Studies, he was a board member for the European History Quarterly and the H-Italy Network. He retired from active teaching in 2002.

The Sarti Papers document Sarti’s distinguished career as professor, author, and chair of the History Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. They consist of professional correspondence, history department records, records of major crises at the University, Italian studies newsletters, student publications, and historical society records. A significant amount of the materials, particularly among the correspondence and periodicals, are in Italian.

Subjects
  • Fascism
  • Italy--History--20th century
  • Italy--Politics and government--20th century
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of History
Contributors
  • Sarti, Roland, 1937-

UMass Peacemakers

UMass Peacemakers Records
1965-1990 (Bulk: 1983-1990)
10 boxes (20 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 309
Image of Peacemakers contingent at the Four Days in April protests, 1984
Peacemakers contingent at the Four Days in April protests, 1984

Although the precise origins of UMass Peacemakers are murky, by 1982, the group was an active presence on the UMass Amherst campus organizing opposition to militarism and the nuclear arms race and providing support for the nuclear freeze movement. Organizing vigils, demonstrations, informational workshops, and providing civil disobedience training, the Peacemakers were the most visible pacifist group on the UMass Amherst campus in the 1980s.

The UMass Peacemakers Records focus on the activities of the student group between 1983 and 1990, documenting their role in confronting the aggressive international expansionism of the Reagan administration and its “Star Wars” program, while also engaging at the local and national level by organizing rallies, lectures, poetry readings, and film screenings. At UMass, Peacemakers was part of the larger Progressive Student Network, and worked alongside other student organizations including the Radical Student Union.

Gift of Peacemakers through Peter Sakura, May 1991
Subjects
  • Antinuclear movements--Massachusetts--Amherst
  • Central America--Foreign relations--United States
  • Disarmament--Massachusetts
  • Peace movements--Massachusetts--Amherst
  • Student movements--Massachusetts--Amherst
  • United States--Foreign relations--Central America
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Students
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • American Friends Service Committee
  • UMass Peacemakers
Types of material
  • Brochures
  • Photographs

Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. Hampshire-Franklin County Chapter

Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts Hampshire-Franklin County Chapter Records
1947-1973
2 boxes (1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 303

Minutes and correspondence of the Executive Committee, correspondence and general files of chairmen Philip Eddy, David E. Matz, and Donn Kesselheim, as well as correspondence, briefs, and clippings related to legal cases and inquiries undertaken by the chapter.

Subjects
  • Civil rights--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. Hampshire-Franklin County Chapter
  • Eddy, Philip
  • Kesselheim, Donn
  • Matz, David E

Massachusetts

Massachusetts Locales Collection
1905-1989
3 boxes (1.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 300

Materials, such as clippings, maps, and photographs, relating to Amherst, but also including items from other western Massachusetts towns. Topics covered include are Amherst writers such as Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, town history, trees and birds of Amherst, and Connecticut River Valley history.

Subjects
  • Amherst (Mass.)--History
  • Massachusetts--History
Types of material
  • Maps
  • Photographs

Massachusetts

Massachusetts Agricultural Surveys
1910-1965
25 boxes (18 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 261

Studies were conducted by departments of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, Massachusetts State College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus in conjunction with various other college departments and agencies of the state and federal governments. The surveys encompass a number of agricultural study areas such as land use, business and farm management, dairy farm and cost of milk production, tobacco and onion production, and poultry and livestock disease surveys. Supplemental statistical information and aerial photographs are also included.

Subjects
  • Agriculture--Massachusetts
  • Land use--Massachusetts
Types of material
  • Aerial photographs

Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs

Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs Posters Collection
1852-1860
19 items
Call no.: MS 169

With one of the first agricultural fairs in the country taking place in Massachusetts in 1807, the state has a special place in the history of agricultural fairs in the United States. Twenty antebellum posters promoting agricultural fairs in western Massachusetts, primarily from agricultural societies in Hampshire, Hampden, Franklin, and Berkshire Counties.

Subjects
  • Agricultural exhibitions--Massachusetts--Posters
  • Agricultural exhibitions--Rhode Island--Providence--Posters
  • Agriculture--Social aspects--Massachusetts--History
  • Agriculture--Social aspects--Rhode Island--History
Types of material
  • Posters

Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test, Inc.

Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test Records
1953-1959
1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 082
Image of Terry B. Kinney at groundbreaking, July 1954
Terry B. Kinney at groundbreaking, July 1954

An early example of cooperative research between industry and academia, the Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test, Inc. was founded in 1954 to conduct tests to improve poultry productivity. Taking advantage of the professional skills of the staff and students in the Poultry Science Department at UMass Amherst, the Test facility was located adjacent to campus and over its five year course of operations, gathered scientific data on a number of variables, including rate of growth, rate of feathering, age of maturity, and egg production and hatchability.

The records of the Broiler Test consist of minutes, financial documents, correspondence, and test results.

Gift of Thomas W. Fox, 1987
Subjects
  • Chickens--Breeding
  • Poultry industry--Massachusetts
  • Turkeys--Breeding
Contributors
  • Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test, Inc
Types of material
  • Photographs

Massachusetts Constitution

Massachusetts Constitution Revision Collection
1948-1965
1 box (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 449

In the early 1960s the Council for Constitutional Reform, a nonpartisan citizen organization seeking to promote economical and efficient state government, called for a constitutional convention to convene in Massachusetts. The group cited the state’s national reputation for corruption and public immorality as reasons for amending the constitution, while others argued that the state’s problems, primarily governmental waste, a cumbersome state tax structure, and inefficient state agencies, could only be resolved by the legislature and governor. Opponents to the convention argued too that the cost of such a convention, in total more than $2 million, would only increase the financial burden of the state.

Correspondence and position statements arguing both sides of the debate offer insight into the politics of the 1960s as well as the public’s response to the political climate in the Commonwealth. Newspaper clippings trace the movement for constitutional reform from early proposals to the approval of four amendments during the November 1964 election.

Subjects
  • Massachusetts--Economic conditions--20th century
  • Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
  • Massachusetts. Constitution
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