A detail from an archival issue of 'The Drum,' a student-published journal that explored the "black literary experience."

Black History Month at UMass Amherst

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



Cover art for the 1988 issue of 'The Drum.'
Written and edited by students at UMass Amherst, The Drum was focused on the Black literary experience and appeared from 1969 to 1988. Visit Special Collections and University Archives to view digitized versions of every issue of the literary journal. 

The unmistakable legacy of Black students and faculty at UMass Amherst dates back to the late 19th century, as chronicled through the UMass Amherst Black Presence Project

Robust activism in the 1960s and 1970s signaled the organization of festivals, performances, and academic programming; brought prominent Black artists, musicians, and educators to campus; and saw the appointment of the university's first Black chancellor, whose priorities and efforts laid the groundwork for current arts programming at UMass Amherst.


Read more about Black Presence in the Arts at UMass Amherst »



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

With more than 40 interviews and profiles, the UMass Black Presence website tells the remarkable story of the Black faculty, staff, alumni, and students who have contributed to UMass Amherst's international reputation for excellence. Conducted over several semesters, the rich oral history interviews were led by Professor John H. Bracey Jr., a founding member of the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, alongside Erika Slocumb, an Afro-American studies 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.

Archie Shepp

Archie Shepp taught at UMass for 30 years, beginning in 1971. His class Revolutionary Concepts followed the history of African American instrumental music from its origins in Africa to its current incarnations today. Learn more.

Randolph W. Bromery

Randolph Wilson Bromery was an American educator, geologist, and a former chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst (1971–79). He was the first Black chancellor of the university and the second African American to lead a predominantly and historically white campus. His leadership was instrumental in laying the foundations for arts programming on campus today. Learn more.

Irma McClaurin

Dr. Irma McClaurin '76MFA, '89MA, '93PhD, and UMass Distinguished Alumna is the founder of the Irma McClaurin Black Feminist Archive. She is also an accomplished scholar, anthropologist, former university president, and award-winning writer. Learn more.

Mary Edmonia Lewis

Professor Charmaine Nelson fuses past with present with her groundbreaking research that explores Black history through art. Here, she profiles 19th-century sculptor Mary Edmonia Lewis: a tenacious, extraordinarily talented, and resilient artist often overlooked by art history.

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, housed in the W. E. B. Du Bois Library, 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 can be found on the 25th floor of the library in the Special Collections and University Archives section.

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 the 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. It is a collaboration with the 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.

Poster for the "As We Move Forward" exhibition at Augusta Savage Gallery, featuring photos of the contributing artists.
Feb. 7, 2023–May 10, 2024
Augusta Savage Gallery
Poster for Reading Frederick Douglass Together.
Thursday, Feb. 14, 2024, 12 p.m.
South College Commons