In honor of the 10th anniversary of the W. E. B. Du Bois Center, we share with you 10 highlights of our work. We began as a big idea in a small office in the Du Bois Library, and in the decade since have opened up a half-floor devoted to teaching, researching, and connecting with Dr. Du Bois, work that reaches all corners of the campus and the globe. Thank you for helping make all of this possible. Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptiste, Director of the Center
Thanks to the generosity of alums John Fitzgerald ’63, G’78 and Paul Murphy ’73, and former Director of Libraries Jay Schafer, we have given away thousands of Du Bois’s masterpiece, The Souls of Black Folk, free to students along with a slice of cake, to celebrate his birthday on February 23. This year, we handed out nearly 500 copies of Souls.
Annual Lecture and Dinner
The annual Du Bois lecture is a highpoint of the academic year as it has been for 25 years, attracting such scholars as David Levering Lewis and Aldon Morris. In 2019, the event expanded into a reception and dinner in Old Chapel where Francoise Hamlin of Brown University gave the lecture.
Digitisation of Du Bois Papers
With the support of the Verizon Foundation in 2009 and a We the People grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2010, Special Collections and University Archives were able to make the more than 100,000 items that comprise the Du Bois Papers freely available on the Internet. This digital treasure trove has helped bring more scholars, students, and members of the public into contact with the intellectual legacy of Du Bois and his contemporaries.
Archaeological Field School
For the past three decades, archaeologists from UMass Amherst have been conducting extensive investigations at the Du Bois Boyhood Homesite in Great Barrington, Mass. In 2012, there was a field school at the historic site to assess the extent and integrity of the material landscape, specifically with regards to the lives of an African-American family who resided at the site for over 130 years in what Du Bois refers to in his writings as “The House of the Black Burghardts.”
As custodians of the Du Bois Boyhood Homesite in Great Barrington, MA, UMass had a direct connection to Du Bois’s birthplace. The Center has built on this bone, forging relationships with local community groups and helping to organize and support programming, events, and exhibitions. This year, we were thrilled to support and attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the homesite dedication. We look forward to working with the town in the decades to come to further celebrate, promote, and honor the legacy of Du Bois.
Since day one, we have had a strong connection to the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst, which has grown stronger over time. We have collaborated on important events, including a Teach-In about racism on campus in 2018. We have hosted Afro-Am events at the Du Bois Center and, in turn, we have enjoyed the hospitality of New Africa House on several occasions. Graduate students from Afro-Am have joined the fellowship program, and the faculty are great supporters and champions of the work we do.
Du Bois Visiting Scholars
Thanks to generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the number of scholars taking part in our post-doctoral fellowship program has been steadily increasing since 2016. Each of the fellows is required to return to campus after their summer residency to deliver a lecture on their research. These talks have been a key part of the programming we run throughout the academic year and showcase the interdisciplinary, new, and original scholarship that is being conducted in the archive by the Du Bois Center fellows.
In November 2018, the Du Bois Center celebrated its first published book, W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America by Whitney Battle-Baptiste, Director of the Center, and Britt Russert of Afro-American Studies. The book represents the first complete publication of colorful charts, graphs, and maps by Du Bois presented at the 1900 Paris Exposition and it even made an appearance in the 2018 New York Times Holiday Gift Guide.
Community College Faculty Fellowship
This program supports community colleges across the state, giving their faculty and students an opportunity to engage with the archive, scholars, and the university. Thanks to funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we have increased the number of faculty in this program and bring more community college students to UMass to tour the papers to take part in a workshop at the Center, and attend a keynote lecture by one of our post-doctoral fellows.
Breakfast with Du Bois
Since January 2019, we have hosted “Breakfasts with Du Bois” on Mondays at 9:30 a.m. Each week, the group reads a different text by or about Du Bois over coffee, muffins, and bagels. The discussions that follow are lively, interesting, and often provide new perspectives on Du Bois. Open to the public, the breakfasts are attended by faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and members of the local community. They have been a gracious way of introducing Du Bois to new audiences.