The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories
[Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail civil rights collection]
Repository: Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail
Collection Description (CRHP): The Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail and companion guidebook (titled African American Heritage in the Upper Housatonic Valley) cover events in 29 Northwest Connecticut and Western Massachusetts towns that comprise the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area. Events are covered through the 1960s, including some local NAACP activity and a personal account on racial discrimination in the area by Mrs. Elaine Gunn. The organization (of the same name as the trail) includes newspaper clippings and video recordings of the events surrounding the attempt to memorialize in 1968/69 the W.E.B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, an effort spurred by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. It has copies of two video recordings (in DVD format) of the 40th anniversary of the W. E. B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite and Memorial Park Dedication on October 18, 2009, and the W.E.B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite and Memorial Park Preview on July 24, 2008 respectively. In these recordings, Dr. Edmund Gordon and Mrs. Gunn give reflections on civil rights and their efforts to get the W. E. B. Du Bois home recognized. In the 2008 recording, Dr. Gordon discusses becoming friends with Du Bois in New York City in the early 1950s. He discusses purchasing property in Massachusetts at a time when housing discrimination was common and then purchasing the Du Bois home site and his effort to turn it into a site honoring Du Bois's life and legacy. He talks about local opposition to honoring Du Bois, including from the Ku Klux Klan and American Legion. He also briefly mentions opposition to a ceremony honoring Paul Robeson. Mrs. Gunn in particular talks about the 1969 dedication ceremony of the Du Bois home site and also talks about the opposition they faced, including from the local press, the extreme right, and Black Panthers. She mentioned Julian Bond, Ossie Davis, and Pete Seeger coming to the ceremony. For the 2009 event, Gordon and Gunn also gave remarks and recollections. The originals of these video recordings are held at Univ. of Mass at Amherst. The trail's web site also features an audio recording on the homesite dedication as well as one of May E. Brown, who discusses racial discrimination in Massachusetts and her response to it. See: http://www.africanamericantrail.org/Audio.html. In addition, this collection includes a number of photographs of the civil rights period, complete with sources and copyright information.
Collection URL: http://www.africanamericantrail.org/
Digital Status: Partial
Extent: video discs (DVDs); digital audio recording; photographs; mansucripts
Related Archival Items: See the oral history collection of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. There is an 8-minute film that includes excerpts from Julian Bond's keynote address and comments by Ossie Davis and Dr. Edmund Gordon when the Du Bois Homesite was dedicated in 1969. The film can be viewed through the web site of the Friends of the Du Bois Homesite at http://www.duboishomesite.org/duboishomesite1969%20film.html. It is owned by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Special Collections, which also houses the Du Bois Papers. The Friends of the Du Bois Homesite collection includes newspaper clippings, photographs and letters collected in the 1960s by W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Committee Secretary Ruth D. Jones and in the 1970s by Homer Meade, who organized a second Homesite dedication in 1979 to commemorate its National Historic Landmark status.
Also see the collections at the Norman Rockwell Museum for more information on the civil rights movement in western Massachusetts.
Interviewees: Elaine Gunn, Edmund Gordon
Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights
African Americans--Civil rights--Massachusetts
Civil rights movements--Connecticut
Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968--Assassination
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People