Equity and Inclusion

Noted Scholar, Activist, Historian, and UMass Amherst Professor Amilcar Shabazz Named 2023 Recipient of Distinguished Ruth B. Loving Civil Rights Award

Shabazz was honored by City of Springfield During 37th Annual Black American Heritage Ceremony

Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno joined State Rep. Bud L. Williams Wednesday, Feb. 1, to present noted scholar, social and racial justice activist, and UMass Amherst professor in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies Amilcar Shabazz with the 2023 Ruth B. Loving Civil Rights Award during the 37th Annual Black American Heritage ceremony at City Hall.

NEWS Amilcar Shabazz
Amilcar Shabazz

The Ruth B. Loving Civil Rights Award is awarded annually in Springfield, Mass., to an individual who furthers Loving’s legacy. Shabazz was recognized for his life scholarship and activism championing historical truth telling and Black reparations in Massachusetts, across the U.S. and the world.

The ceremony, which officially begins the recognition and observance of Black History Month in the city, honors the memory of late UMass Amherst alumna Ruth B. Loving, who served as president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the 1960s and dedicated her life to social justice. The influential civil rights pioneer earned her bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst through the University Without Walls at the age of 73, and a scholarship at the university was later named and dedicated in her honor.

“The Ruth B. Loving Civil Rights Award is a great honor because Springfield has profound stories to tell regarding the History of the Civil Rights Movement that Ruth Loving is the mother of,” Shabazz says. “As a student of and teacher about that movement it means so much to be seen and recognized by the people of this great metropolis.”

A professor of history and Africana Studies in the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies since 2007, Shabazz served as the department’s seventh chair from 2007 to 2012. From 2013 to 2016, he was the Faculty Advisor to the Chancellor for Diversity and Excellence, and, from 2016 to 2022, he acted as the department’s interim chair. He continues to teach in the department with an emphasis on the political economy of social and cultural movements, education and public policy.

“Amilcar is brilliant leader and scholar who tirelessly advocates for racial equity and social justice not just in the classroom but in the world,” says Barbara Krauthamer, dean of the College of Humanities & Fine Arts. “There are few who deserve this meaningful recognition more.”

In addition to working as a professor, Shabazz is the author of books such as “The Forty Acres Documents,” an anthology of writings published almost thirty years ago that revealed the Black demand for reparations and promises made but not kept by the U.S. government. He has done research, taught classes and continually advocated for reparations, including serving as a member of the African Heritage Reparations Assembly set up by the Town of Amherst to develop a plan for a local reparative justice program.

Shabazz led efforts to encourage the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to establish Juneteenth as a state and then a national holiday.

State Representative Williams says, “For him, Black history not contained to a month, but he teaches it year-round, every day and everywhere. From college classrooms to a read-aloud at William DeBerry Elementary School, Shabazz shows up for us.”

In 2022, at the invitation of the Vice President and President of Colombia, Shabazz attended the country’s historic presidential inauguration. He also has participated in two national meetings in Colombia, where they discussed developing a national reparations program.

Following the Black American Heritage ceremony in Springfield, officials raised the Black Heritage flag on the front steps of City Hall.

Speakers included State Senators; Representative Bud Williams; members of the Massachusetts Black Latino Caucus; Mayor Dominic Sarno; and the City Council President. The Rev. Dayhige Wright of St. John’s Congregational Church delivered the keynote address, while Dr. Gloria B. Williams was the Mistress of Ceremony.