Black History Month

Black History Month: Mark the Celebration

On campus and across the state of Massachusetts, UMass Amherst honors Black history and heritage.
HFA Dean Barbara Krauthamer


By Barbara Krauthamer, Dean, College of Humanities and 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.

Black History Month originated in the 1920s as part of Dr. Carter G. Woodson's efforts to expand knowledge and awareness of the history and achievements of Black people in America. In 1926, Woodson established Negro History Week in the month of February, as both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born in the month, and African Americans already had established traditions of celebrating Lincoln’s role in the abolition of slavery and Douglass’ role as a prominent political writer and orator.

Woodson’s initiative built on the tradition established in the 1890s by African American educator and women’s rights activist, Mary Church Terrell, of celebrating Douglass Day on February 14th. By the mid-1970s, this tradition achieved national recognition as Black History Month.


Explore the Black Presence Website

illustration featuring John Bracey standing in front of a chalkboard

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 our international reputation for excellence throughout our history. The rich oral history interviews, conducted over the past several semesters, were led by John H. Bracey, Jr., Professor, 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.

John Bracey

Professor John H. Bracey, Jr., has taught in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst since 1972. He is co-director of the department’s graduate certificate in African Diaspora Studies. Learn more.

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 Dr. 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. 


Whether virtual or in person, explore these university events taking place throughout the month of February.