Students at an anti-racism protest in front of New Africa House at UMass Amherst.

Black History Month: A Legacy of Social Justice

UMass Amherst honors and acknowledges Black history and heritage, on campus and beyond.


New Africa House, formerly Mills House, on the UMass Amherst campus.
New Africa House, formerly Mills House, was the site of a student occupation in 1970 that led to the establishment of the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies and a Black cultural center in the building.

At UMass Amherst, a revolutionary spirit drives the pursuit of answers, ideas, progress, and justice. In many cases, achieving these ends means speaking truth to power to bring about just and necessary change.

For more than 120 years, Black students and faculty at UMass have taken action to address the needs of the Black community. To this day, they work to make the university a more inclusive and equitable space. Their actions have resulted in the establishment of formal student organizations, institutional initiatives, a vanguard academic department, and dedicated spaces serving Black students on campus. 


John H. Bracey, Jr. teaching at UMass Amherst in 1972.
John H. Bracey, Jr. teaching at UMass Amherst in 1972.

With over 40 interviews and profiles, the UMass Black Presence website tells the remarkable story of the Black faculty, staff, alumni and students who contributed to UMass Amherst's international reputation for excellence. The rich oral history interviews, conducted over several semesters, were led by Professor John H. Bracey, Jr., a founding member of the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, with Erika Slocumb, Afro-American doctoral candidate, and students enrolled in Black Presence at UMass, Part I and Part II. Below are just a few of the many profiles available in the website's growing collection.

Ester Terry

Esther Alexander Terry was a major contributor to the development of Black Studies; she holds a BA from Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, a MA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a PhD from UMass Amherst, where she has had a long career as both a faculty member and as an administrator. Learn more.

James Baldwin

James Baldwin spent much of his life being told he was too radical—too radical for white critics, too radical to speak at the March on Washington, and too radical for the Ivy leagues. This did not concern him. He “found his kind” at UMass, in the words of his then-personal assistant, Dwight “Skip” Stackhouse.  Learn more.

Earl Stafford

Earl W. Stafford continues to make an impact in his business career and in his dedication to helping his fellow man. In 2002, Stafford created The Stafford Foundation, a faith-based, nonprofit organization that provides support to the underserved and the socially and economically distressed so they may become self-reliant. Learn more.

Group portrait of W. E. B. Du Bois and other defendants in Washington, D.C. during trial in 1951.

By Barbara Krauthamer, Dean, College of Humanities & Fine Arts

Black History Month offers the opportunity to learn about the rich history and culture of African Americans in Massachusetts, the United States, and our own campus. Barbara Krauthamer, historian and dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, reflects on the origins of Black History Month, which originated in the 1920s as part of an effort to expand knowledge and awareness of the history and achievements of Black people in America.

Campus Archives and Resources

UMass Amherst offers an abundance of archival and digital resources available to the campus community all year long.

web du bois

The W. E. B. Du Bois Center engages audiences in discussion and scholarship about global issues involving race, labor, and social justice. UMass Amherst is also the proud home of the W. E. B. Du Bois Papers, which are housed on the 25th floor of the library in the Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives.

A photo of women in the foreground focused on someone out of frame while sitting at tables

To raise awareness of the issues and increase visibility of the unique contributions of Black women, women of color, and transfem people, Distinguished Alumna Irma McClaurin MFA '76, MA '89, PhD '93 founded the Irma McClaurin Black Feminist Archive (BFA). It is a collaboration with UMass Amherst Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives and the W.E.B. Du Bois Center. 


Explore university events taking place throughout the month of February.

Bobby Broom
Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, 7:30 - 9:30 p.m.
Bowker Auditorium