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Sitting Down with Our Du Bois Scholars: Brittany Frederick

Brittany Frederick

Du Bois, Education, and Social Justice

For Brittany Frederick G’22, knowledge and access to learning opportunities mean everything.

“I am a big champion of education,” she stated.

Frederick, a second-year PhD student in the History Department at UMass Amherst, has actually made education the subject of her own scholarship in a project entitled “Expanding the Talented Tenth”: Du Bois and the Educational Evolution of UMass Amherst.

“Since high school, I knew I wanted to study history and English,” Frederick recalled, noting with a smile that her passion for the former began in earnest after watching the 2004 blockbuster, National Treasure.

Now studying modern US, public, and African American history, Frederick is on a historical treasure hunt of her own, using her Du Bois Fellowship to comb through various papers in the Du Bois Center and provide a deeper understanding of the relationships between the UMass Amherst Libraries, the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, Special Collections and University Archives, and of course, W. E. B. Du Bois himself.

“I’m interested in student protests, civil rights, and the role of universities and protest in social and cultural change,” said Frederick. “There are a lot of things centered on Du Bois here [at UMass]; I’ve never heard of an educational space to tailor its mission to fit the philosophy of a person. I wanted to pursue that as a research topic.”

According to her findings, that philosophy promotes a surprisingly direct link between education and Frederick’s current fields of study.

“I never realized how much Du Bois championed the connection between education and social justice,” Frederick said. “Reading his correspondence and publications, I see an inherent connection between education as social and racial uplift for black people in America and the role universities play in that mission and in social justice.”

As far as disseminating her research to the public, Frederick said that she hopes people will realize that education in and of itself is a national treasure.

 “Knowledge is power,” she affirmed. “Period. End of sentence.”


Du Bois Fellowships are made possible by the Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) of the W. E. B. Du Bois Library. They are awarded in two categories: 1.) Full-time faculty or independent scholars with a PhD and 2.) graduate students at UMass Amherst or in the Five college community. For application information, please follow this link.