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Letter from the Director

Du Bois's Words Offer Perspective For Complicated Times

2016 Dr Whitney Battle Baptiste js MG 8914 1We live in complicated times. For each national victory, there is a sobering moment to temper our celebration. This has been a summer of mourning, crying, shouting, and marching, and one also questioning why? In moments like these, I find myself reaching for the words of Dr. Du Bois from so long ago, to help with context and perspective.

"Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, how does it feel to be a problem? They say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, how does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word."

Du Bois 1903

In the midst of today's real and unasked questions, I write this letter with a sense of inspiration and accomplishment. Through the collective work of countless students, staff, current faculty and elder scholars, the Du Bois Center has been awarded three years of funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This award brings to life our first Du Bois Center Faculty Seminar Series centering on curriculum development and scholarship in the Du Boisian tradition; it increases graduate and post-doc Du Bois Fellows, and the grant establishes a collaborative relationship with the Commonwealth Honors College and its Honors to Honors Program, specifically highlighting the work of W. E. B. Du Bois in the required course Ideas That Change the World.

There is always a reason to press forward, even in complicated times. I am looking forward to this coming year at the Du Bois Center. The occasion will require engaging with new people on and off of campus and bringing the legacy of Dr. Du Bois to a new generation of students who truly need his words right now.

Whitney Battle-Baptiste

6 Black Archaeologists and Anthropologists You Should Know About

Du Bois Center opening2


Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptiste, Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Center, is named by Atlanta BlackStar b.l.e.r.d.s. as one of the "6 Black Archaeologists and Anthropologists You Should Know About."

For the full list, please visit:

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23rd Annual Du Bois Lecture: Viewing the Past through the Eyes of the Present, A Dialogue Around the Work of Kara Walker

Wednesday, February 22, 4 - 6 p.m. CHC Event Hall 160


The UMass Amherst Libraries host the 23rd Annual Du Bois Lecture, Viewing the Past Through the Eyes of the Present: A Dialogue Around the Work of Kara Walker, on Wednesday, February 22, 2017, from 4 – 6 p.m., in the Commonwealth Honors College Event Hall 160, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

The lecture features an interactive panel comprised of Dr. Barbara Krauthamer, associate professor of history and associate dean of the Graduate School, UMass Amherst; Dr. Traci Parker, assistant professor, W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst; and Dr. Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, assistant professor of history, Smith College. 

The conversation, facilitated by Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptiste, associate professor of anthropology, UMass Amherst, and Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Center, will engage these scholars on race, gender, and slavery through their perspective fields to highlight the truths embedded in the work of Kara Walker and other artists across the African Diaspora.

Each year, the Libraries mark the February 23, 1868 birthday of W. E. B. Du Bois with a lecture on a topic relating to his life and legacy. The Library was named for Du Bois in 1994 and is home to the extensive W.E.B. Du Bois Papers.

The lecture is presented in partnership with the University Museum of Contemporary Art and its current exhibit Emancipating the Past: Kara Walker’s Tales of Slavery and Power (February 2 – April 30, 2017) and is co-sponsored in part by the Randolph and Cecile Bromery Endowment for the W. E. B. Du Bois Center at the UMass Amherst Libraries.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served and copies of Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery and Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship before the Civil War will be for sale and signing by Dr. Krauthamer and Dr. Stordeur Pryor.


Dr. Barbara Krauthamer, G’94, Washington University, St. Louis, G’96, Ph.D.’00, Princeton University, was recently appointed the associate dean for student inclusion and engagement in the Graduate School at UMass Amherst. As associate dean, she will set up and manage the new Research Enhancement and Leadership Fellows program, a joint effort of the Graduate School, the Provost’s Office, and the Colleges designed to facilitate the recruitment and success of minority students.

Krauthamer is the author of  Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South (University of North Carolina Press, 2013), and Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery (Temple University Press, 2012), co-authored with Professor Deborah Willis. Her work has been supported with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Stanford University, Yale University, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Krauthamer is currently working on a study of runaway slave women that frames enslaved women as intellectual and political actors and examines the meanings and manifestations of freedom in their lives.

Dr. Traci Parker, Ph.D.’13, University of Chicago, is currently completing her book manuscript entitled Workers, Consumers, and Civil Rights. Parker’s research and teaching interests include African American women’s history, 19th and 20th century U.S. history, race and racism, class, labor, capitalism, and consumer culture.

Before coming to UMass Amherst, Parker held the Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholarship at the University of Chicago.  She has been the recipient of a number of fellowships, awards, and grants, including the University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture Dissertation Fellowship and Graduate Research and Travel Grant, the Department of History’s John Hope Franklin Fellowship and Freehling Research Travel Grant, and the Provost’s Summer Fellowship. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Virginia Historical Society, and the Hagley Museum and Library, among others, also have supported her research.

Dr. Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, B.A., Tufts University, M.A., Cornell University, and Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, specializes in 19th-century U.S. history and race. Before teaching at Smith College, she was a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the UCLA School of Law, where she studied the intersections of race, gender and citizenship before the Civil War. Pryor’s specific research and teaching interests include an examination of U.S. citizenship from the early national period through the passage of the 15th Amendment. Other teaching and research interests include resistance, dis/ability, gender, sexuality, historical memory, enslavement, enslaved people, indigeneity, Black activism, the birth of Jim Crow segregation and the pedagogies of teaching the "n-word" and other forms of racism in the college classroom. She is a 2016 recipient of the Sherrerd Prize for Distinguished Teaching at Smith College.

Pryor’s first book was Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship before the Civil War (The University of North Carolina Press, 2016).  Her next project is an examination of African American women within and on the periphery of the Abolitionist Movement, especially those women who refused to conform to gendered notions of respectability as they fought for the liberation of their communities, their families and, most significantly, themselves.

Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptiste, ’94, Virginia State University; G’00, The College of William & Mary; Ph.D.’04, University of Texas, Austin, African Diaspora Program in Anthropology, is a historical archaeologist who focuses primarily on the historical intersection of race, class, gender in the shaping of cultural landscapes across the African Diaspora. Her theoretical interests include Black Feminist theory, African American material and expressive culture, and critical heritage studies. Battle-Baptiste’s work spans a variety of historic sites in the Northern and Southern United States, including the Hermitage in Nashville, Tennessee; Rich Neck Plantation in Williamsburg, Virginia; the Abiel Smith School in Boston, Massachusetts; the W.E.B. Du Bois Homesite in Great Barrington, Massachusetts; and Millars Plantation on the island of Eleuthera, Bahamas. She is currently working on a book project reimagining the work of W. E. B. Du Bois as a method to connect historical archaeology and Black Studies.

Emancipating the Past: Kara Walker’s Tales of Slavery and Power. This exhibition brings together 60 works in a variety of mediums, from printmaking (such as lithograph, etching with aquatint, photogravure, linocut, and screen-print), to wall murals, metal sculpture and shadow puppetry. The exhibition was curated by Jessi Di Tillio, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University of Oregon. All works in this exhibition come from the Portland, Oregon-based collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation.

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The Bernard Jaffe Collection

BernardJaffePapers DuBois

Bernard Jaffe, who passed away last year at the age of 95, was an attorney and scholar who had a multi-faceted professional relationship and personal friendship with W.E.B. Du Bois over the last decade of Du Bois’s life. When Du Bois accepted President Kwame Nkrumah’s invitation to move to Ghana, Jaffe managed the legal issues relating to this transition, as well as the legal needs of Du Bois and his wife Shirley Graham Du Bois, for the remainder of their lives.

The Bernard Jaffe Collection centers on the close relationship between Jaffe, Shirley, and W.E.B. Du Bois. Although there is little correspondence from W.E.B. Du Bois himself, the collection contains an exceptional run of correspondence with Shirley, which offers insight into the Du Boises' time in Africa, as well as Shirley's subsequent departure and resettlement in Egypt. The collection also includes a wealth of correspondence with David Graham Du Bois, along with materials from his work with the W.E.B. Du Bois Foundation.

Jaffe helped facilitate the Libraries’ acquisition of the Du Bois Collection, and arranged for Shirley Graham Du Bois to have a visiting professorship at the university. Thanks to the generosity of the Jaffe family, specifically Jaffe’s nephew Jonathan Klate, the collection includes contracts, correspondence, and photographs.

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UMass Amherst Receives $600,000 Grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for W.E.B. Du Bois Center

AMHERST, Mass. – The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries a three-year, $600,000 grant to support a program for faculty fellows, graduate fellows and undergraduates from UMass Amherst and community colleges to engage deeply with the W.E.B. Du Bois archives through the W.E.B. Du Bois Center.

The grant underwrites UMass Amherst faculty and graduate student fellows who will receive support to travel to related archives and work together in a yearly seminar that will incorporate visiting scholars and faculty in the humanities and social sciences with interests related to Du Bois, his contemporaries and his intellectual descendants. Faculty and graduate fellows will share their research through public lectures at UMass Amherst and affiliated institutions.

Additionally, the grant will facilitate the participation of community college students in the UMass Amherst Commonwealth Honors College’s “Ideas that Change the World” course. This course will be offered at five community college campuses by UMass Amherst instructors. As part of the course, the students spend a full day on the Amherst campus visiting the Du Bois archives, and meeting with students and faculty from the honors college. They will also make a site visit to the Du Bois home site in Great Barrington, where UMass Amherst faculty and students have been conducting archaeology since 1983.  

The grant affords access to the work and words of Du Bois to a new generation of students and faculty, says Whitney Battle-Baptiste, director of the Du Bois Center and associate professor of anthropology at UMass Amherst. “Du Bois’ ideas have never been more relevant, and the grant positions UMass to expand the impact of the research and scholarship his wisdom has inspired.”

“The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant is a welcome testament to the legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, to our library and its special collections,” says Katherine S. Newman, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Our faculty and students’ work exemplifies research excellence, especially in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. It also recognizes the extraordinary quality of the Commonwealth Honors College as an educational institution, particularly the ongoing work of its ‘Ideas’ instructors to incorporate Du Bois into the core seminar’s required readings.” Newman says the grant recognizes the work of Battle-Baptiste and a cadre of affiliated faculty who have been teaching Du Bois for decades.

“The lecturers in the honors college are excited to begin incorporating the materials of the Du Bois Center in their UMass offerings through the ‘Ideas’ course,” says Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, dean of Commonwealth Honors College. “We look forward to offering the course to community college students under this exciting new partnership.”

The W.E.B. Du Bois Center was established in 2009 to engage the nation and the world in discussion and scholarship about the global issues involving race, labor and social justice. It was founded under the direction of Jay Schafer, director of UMass Amherst Libraries. “The center was created to present an interdisciplinary approach to the intersections among African-American culture and history, social justice and labor relations,” says Schafer. “It opens this research to new insights and evaluation in light of the issues confronting people throughout the world today.”

By making its resources readily available and accessible to the public, the center upholds the scholarly tradition and spirit of its namesake, W.E.B. Du Bois, a Massachusetts native son, who was pivotal to the social and political debates on race, class and culture of the 20th century.

July 7, 2016

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Sixth Annual W.E.B. Du Bois Tribute

Feb. 28, 3-5pm St. John's Church, Spfld.

DuBois tribute

Historic St. John’s Church, 45 Hancock Street, Springfield, Mass, hosts the annual tribute to W.E.B. Du Bois. 

Student groups from Westfield State, Springfield College, and UMass Amherst will sing and dance in honor of Du Bois, with a special salute to the late Dr. Randolph Bromery who served as leader at the three campuses and who spearheaded the initiative to bring Du Bois’s papers to UMass Amherst. 

Want to know more? Visit the W.E.B. Du Bois Center's website to learn more about our work, or to become a Friend of Du Bois.

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Monday - Friday
10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

The Center offers:

Quiet study spaces.

Space to meet with groups.

A place to learn about W. E. B. Du Bois and his relevance today.