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University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst

W.E.B. Du Bois Department


Welcome to the official website for the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst.  The Department is an intellectual, professional, and social community that stands at the forefront of global education and research on people of African descent in the United States and the world.  Please browse the site to learn more about who we are and what we do behind the doors of New Africa House on the UMass flagship campus and beyond.

Upcoming Events











June Jordan Symposium

March 25, 2016

Click on image for pdf flier.









Department News

Video: Chinua Achebe and the Image of Africa

James Baldwin Review Vol. 1, No. 1 now online:


Professor Sinha’s Work Among 'Ten Books on Slavery You Need to Read'

“The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina,” by Manisha Sinha, Afro-American Studies, has been chosen by Harvard historian Sven Beckert as one of “Ten Books on Slavery You Need to Read." For more see Inside UMass at News & Media Relations









UMass Amherst Historian Karen Y. Morrison Awarded Fulbright Fellowship to Conduct Research in Brazil.

See Inside UMass Newsletter for more..










Professor Steven Tracy’s New Book Examines Cultural Influence of African-American ‘Hot Music’

The University of Alabama Press this month published Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature by Afro-American Studies Professor Steven C. Tracy. See Inside UMass Newsletter for more.





Julia Bernier, Ph.D. Candidate, has received the African American History Fellowship at the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Nneka Dennie, Ph.D. Candidate, was selected as one of the 2015 recipients of the W.E.B. Du Bois Special Collections and University Archives Fellowships.

See Professor Sinha's latest in The Huffington Post:

Professor Britt Rusert was awarded the 2014 Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies (INCS) essay prize for her essay "Delany's Comet: Fugitive Science and the Speculative Imaginary of Emancipation." The prize recognizes excellence in interdisciplinary scholarship on any nineteenth-century topic. Last year "Delany's Comet" also received finalist mention for the Constance Rourke Prize, awarded by the American Studies Association (ASA) for the best article published in American Quarterly.

Spencer Kuchle, Ph.D. Candidate, has been granted a 2015-2016 Harry Ransom Center Research Fellowship in the Humanities to conduct dissertation research.

David Lucander (Ph.D. 2010) is this year's recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, a major distinction from throughout all of the state university campuses.

VIDEO:  SOS-Calling All Black People event featuring the New Africa House Ensemble and Sonia Sanchez on Youtube!

Tracy Returning to China to Teach and Perform

National Council for Black Studies

2015 Student Essay Contest Winner!

Graduate Winner

1st Place

Crystal Webster

UMass Amherst

The Rhetoric of Childhood: Representation of Black Children in Narratives of Enslavement

Faculty Advisor: Manisha Sinha

Spotlight Scholar: Afro-American Studies Chair John Bracey

Radio Show: "SOS-Calling All Black People" View and listen here.

"SOS-Calling All Black People"featured in Essence Magazine, February 2015

Visit the Du Bois Department Graduate Student Organization's Website:

Profile of Dr. David Lucander on page 8 of the December 18th issue of Diverse: Issues In Higher Education

Professor Steven C. Tracy of Afro-American Studies recently returned from China, where he delivered a keynote address, "The French Revolution, King Louis Armstrong, and the Futuristic Jungleism of Jazz,"  at the 2nd International Symposium on Ethnic Literature at Central China Normal University. The symposium was attended by scholars from America, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, and Korea. While in Wuhan, Tracy offered a series of three lectures on The Black Chicago Renaissance, Sterling Brown, and August Wilson to students at two different Wuhan universities.

Tracy was also honored on the occasion of the end of his 2011-2014 tenure as Chu Tian Scholar "only the 10th in the 111 year history of the University" with an "Honorary Credential" marking his "outstanding service." In addition, Tracy was awarded a "Letter of Appointment" honoring him as "Guest Professor of Central China Normal University" from 2015 to 2017 in order to continue in an official capacity his teaching, lecturing, and performance work.

While at the conference, Professor Lianggong Luo of the School of Foreign Languages unveiled the cover for the upcoming Chinese translation of Steve's first published book, Langston Hughes and the Blues, originally published in 1988 by the University of Illinois Press. The translation is now due out in the Spring of 2015, coinciding with the release of his newest monograph, Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature from the University of Alabama Press.

Now in the 8th year of his visits to China, Steve was featured on Wuhan Television Channel 6, Wuhan's major television station. Three television hosts conducted two separate interviews, one on location at the university and one in the television station studios. The interviews discussed his personal, academic, and musical background and how they have operated separately and dovetailed in his career. Steve performed "John Henry," "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and "Blues in A" during the interviews, and was also videoed at the conference talking to participants as well.


See Professor Steven Tracy's television interview in Wuhan, China on his facebook page.

The 2014 Constance Rourke Prize

Chair: Franny Nudelman, Carleton University

Rick Baldoz, Oberlin College

Kathleen Donegan, University of California, Berkeley


The Constance Rourke Prize has been awarded annually since 1987 for the best article published in American Quarterly.  The winner of this year’s prize is Janet M. Davis, "Cockfight Nationalism: Bloodsport and the Moral Politics of American Empire and Nation Building," Volume 65, Number 3, September 2013.


Finalist mention goes to Britt Rusert, “Delany’s Comet: Fugitive Science and the Speculative Imaginary of Emancipation,” Volume 65, Number 4, December 2013.

See photos from the Footprints of Peace celebration with John Bracey and Sonia Sanchez, et al.

New England Regional Student Program (NERP)

Afro-American Studies Majors Qualify from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

The NERP allows students from the six New England states, who are enrolled in certain programs not offered by their home-state public college or universities, to pay a reduced tuition rate. Not all programs are available in the NERP at UMass.

See the Registrar's Office for details.

Check out our Department News & Events Page for more....

On the evening of January 4, 2013 William Cronon, President of the American Historical Association, awarded the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies with the AHA's Institutional Equity Award for its training and placing of minority historians in the academy. Manisha Sinha, Graduate Program Director and the Jobs Placement Officer of the department for its History-Politics track accepted the award on behalf of the department.

Established over 40 years ago, the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is one of the oldest African American Studies departments in the country. In 1996, this department established a pioneering doctoral program in African American Studies, emphasizing solid disciplinary training in history.  As one of the referees highlighted: "Not only was this doctoral program one of the first in the country but it has since its founding graduated a record number of minority students who have gone on to tenure track positions in history throughout the country."  As one graduate of the department noted, "I learned how to think like a historian and how to be a historian in the academy....Not only did I receive great mentorship, but the graduate program also encouraged me to mentor others, including undergraduate students whom I taught."

This prize is given to recognize individuals and institutions that have achieved excellence in recruiting and retaining underrepresented racial and ethnic groups into the historical profession.  The Department will be recognized during the awards ceremony at the Annual Meeting in New Orleans. You can find information on the AHA's web site, at

The November 2012 newsletter of the Organization of American Historians has a brief article, accompanied by a pie chart,  that begins as follows: "African American history topics were the most popular for the OAH Distinguished Lectureship Program during the 2011-2012,accounting for nearly a quarter of all lectures given."  We are glad that there is such an interest in African American history. We also must acknowledge that the need for scholars in this field is not being met by the full time faculty at many of the institutions requesting guest lecturers. Our department  will continue to do our part in producing first rate graduates who will be available as openings occur.    Professors John Bracey, a Life Member of the OAH since 1964, and Manisha Sinha have served as Distinguished Lecturers for several years.  

*Click on chart for pdf version.




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W.E.B. Du Bois Department of
Afro-American Studies
329 New Africa House
180 Infirmary Way
UMass Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003
Phone: (413) 545- 2751
Fax: (413) 545-0628

(Photo by Ed Cohen)

Department Links:



College of Humanities & Fine Arts

Faculty Presentation Grants (CHFA)

Faculty Senate Course Proposal Submission

ScholarWorks@UMass Amherst Afro-Am Collections

Afro-Am Librarian-Isabel Espinal

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Studies


NCBS Online

The African Studies Review