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Preserving a Rich Tapestry of Black History

UMass archivists shine a light on the past

The department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) at the Du Bois Library is home to a rich variety of historical resources connected to Black history. These collections document not only Black lives and experiences, but also connections to other movements, including the disability rights movement. As SCUA states in its collection policy, “Drawing upon the philosophy of W.E.B. Du Bois, SCUA collects original materials that document the histories and experiences of social change in America and the organizational, intellectual, and individual ties that unite disparate struggles for social justice, human dignity, and equality.”

Here are just a few of the noteworthy highlights among the dozens of collections that illuminate Black history. Click through the links below to learn about these collections, find digitized items, and discover more about SCUA and its resources. (Plus, find Black History Month programming here.)

W.E.B. Du Bois, 1907

W.E.B. Du Bois Papers

This collection features the personal and professional papers of W.E.B. Du Bois—scholar, writer, editor, and remarkable social activist. These papers touch on many aspects of his long life, from Reconstruction through the early 1960s.

Horace Mann Bond, circa 1930

Horace Mann Bond Papers

This collection includes personal and professional correspondence from educator, sociologist, scholar, and author Horace Mann Bond, plus manuscripts, family papers, photographs and more. Bond corresponded with many notable African American educators, activists, and authors, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, W.C. Handy, and others.


Cheryl Evans with student, Roxbury Summer Program, 1965

Cheryl L. Evans Papers

Organizer of the UMass Black Pioneers Project, Cheryl Lorraine Evans is a lifelong activist, performer, and educator. After attending the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, she enrolled at UMass Amherst in 1964, where she became a pivotal organizer of African American students across campus and the first elected president of an African American student organization at UMass.

Students studying in Lesotho, 1963

Africa-America Institute Records

The Africa-America Institute (AAI) was founded in 1953 by a multiracial collective of educators to support African students seeking higher education in the United States. AAI started out providing financial and social support and has expanded over time to become an intellectual center focused on leadership, research, and entrepreneurship.


Black Mass Communications Project members at the Du Bois Homesite 20th anniversary celebration

Black Mass Communications Project Collection

Founded in 1968 to provide information and education to Black students at UMass Amherst, the Black Mass Communications Project brought lectures and other cultural events to campus. It also hosted social gatherings to help keep Black music alive, and throughout the 1970s offered programming on Black music and current affairs through the student radio station.

History in the Making

As history continues to unfold, SCUA continues to build its collections. For example, Irma McClaurin ’76MFA, ’89MA, ’93PhD, creator of the Irma McClaurin Black Feminist Archive,  was awarded a $15,000 grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research to expand the collection.

“By documenting the lives and work of a vibrant community of Black women activists and scholars,” says SCUA’s description of this collection, “we can lay the foundation for more inclusive histories of the future.”