UMass Amherst Receives $600,000 Grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for W.E.B. Du Bois Center

Whitney Battle-Baptiste, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Center

July 7, 2016

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries a three-year, $600,000 grant to support a program for faculty fellows, graduate fellows and undergraduates from UMass Amherst and community colleges to engage deeply with the W.E.B. Du Bois archives through the W.E.B. Du Bois Center.

The grant underwrites UMass Amherst faculty and graduate student fellows who will receive support to travel to related archives and work together in a yearly seminar that will incorporate visiting scholars and faculty in the humanities and social sciences with interests related to Du Bois, his contemporaries and his intellectual descendants. Faculty and graduate fellows will share their research through public lectures at UMass Amherst and affiliated institutions.

Additionally, the grant will facilitate the participation of community college students in the UMass Amherst Commonwealth Honors College’s “Ideas that Change the World” course. This course will be offered at five community college campuses by UMass Amherst instructors. As part of the course, the students spend a full day on the Amherst campus visiting the Du Bois archives, and meeting with students and faculty from the honors college. They will also make a site visit to the Du Bois home site in Great Barrington, where UMass Amherst faculty and students have been conducting archaeology since 1983.  

The grant affords access to the work and words of Du Bois to a new generation of students and faculty, says Whitney Battle-Baptiste, director of the Du Bois Center and associate professor of anthropology at UMass Amherst. “Du Bois’ ideas have never been more relevant, and the grant positions UMass to expand the impact of the research and scholarship his wisdom has inspired.”

“The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant is a welcome testament to the legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, to our library and its special collections,” says Katherine S. Newman, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Our faculty and students’ work exemplifies research excellence, especially in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. It also recognizes the extraordinary quality of the Commonwealth Honors College as an educational institution, particularly the ongoing work of its ‘Ideas’ instructors to incorporate Du Bois into the core seminar’s required readings.” Newman says the grant recognizes the work of Battle-Baptiste and a cadre of affiliated faculty who have been teaching Du Bois for decades.

“The lecturers in the honors college are excited to begin incorporating the materials of the Du Bois Center in their UMass offerings through the ‘Ideas’ course,” says Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, dean of Commonwealth Honors College. “We look forward to offering the course to community college students under this exciting new partnership.”

The W.E.B. Du Bois Center was established in 2009 to engage the nation and the world in discussion and scholarship about the global issues involving race, labor and social justice. It was founded under the direction of Jay Schafer, director of UMass Amherst Libraries. “The center was created to present an interdisciplinary approach to the intersections among African-American culture and history, social justice and labor relations,” says Schafer. “It opens this research to new insights and evaluation in light of the issues confronting people throughout the world today.”

By making its resources readily available and accessible to the public, the center upholds the scholarly tradition and spirit of its namesake, W.E.B. Du Bois, a Massachusetts native son, who was pivotal to the social and political debates on race, class and culture of the 20th century.