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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Du Bois papers now available on the Web

The papers of W.E.B. Du Bois – an important record of the intellectual and activist who serves as the namesake of the main library on the University of Massachusetts campus – have become available online.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Over 30,000 linear feet of books and archives belonging to Du Bois are housed in a newly launched online repository from the UMass Libraries called Credo. The papers had previously only been available in the Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) at the W.E.B Dubois Library.

Funded with an initial $200,000 from the Verizon Foundation and another $315,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Credo project began in 2009 with the aim of creating a single portal for exploring the rare collections from any place in the world, according to a University release.

Since then, the project has been chipping away at the Du Bois Papers, with over 40,000 made available at launch, and the remaining 60,000 expected to be added within the next two years.

Robert Cox, the head of the SCUA, called the Du Bois papers a record of one of the most prolific intellectuals of the last century who held an even greater reputation outside the United States than inside.

“Even when his ideas were unpopular, Du Bois unhesitatingly stood up for intellectual freedom, racial and gender equality, and social justice,” said Cox in an email. “His long lifetime of work in those causes is still a powerful source of inspiration and motivation.”

By making his words available to anyone with an Internet connection, Cox said the library hopes to contribute to the conversation on how Du Bois’ vision of a more just and equitable world can be reached.

And in the way that Du Bois strived to transcend boundaries and deliver his message on racial equality and social change to a worldwide audience, Credo has seemingly already begun to do the same.

UMass Afro-American Studies Department Chairman Amilcar Shabazz and Professor Bill Strickland, the director of the Du Bois papers, recently gave a presentation at the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. German students and scholars were impressed and excited with the opportunity to now study Du Bois’ papers, Shabazz said. Du Bois, who learned German in the 1880s and studied in Berlin in the 1890s, maintained a lifelong relationship with the country through his work until his death in 1963.

“I don’t know if there is any sort of Nobel Prize for academic libraries that make outstanding contributions to the advancement of human knowledge, but if there is, our Du Bois Library deserves it for the launch of Credo,” said Shabazz in an email. “We are giving the world access to scholarly resources and not charging one red cent.”

Additionally, Shabazz said, the Du Bois papers represent Credo’s heart, with many more collections expected to be added to the website. Credo will eventually contain a greater swath of SCUA’s collection, rounding out a group whose topics range from New England and University history to innovation and social change, according to the University release.

The Credo database, as The Republican of Springfield reported in July, takes its name from Du Bois’ 1904 poem that outlines his philosophy for achieving racial equality.

The poem begins, “I BELIEVE in God who made of one blood all races that dwell on earth. I believe that all men, black and brown and white, are brothers, varying, through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development.”

It continues, “I believe in Liberty for all men; the space to stretch their arms and their souls; the right to breathe and the right to vote, the freedom to choose their friends, enjoy the sunshine and ride on the railroads, uncursed by color; thinking, dreaming, working as they will in a kingdom of God and love.”

Du Bois died in Ghana on Aug. 27, 1963, a day shy of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” Hundreds of thousands were informed prior to the speech and a moment of silence was held in his honor.

The Credo database is available through the UMass Libraries’ website at

Brian Canova can be reached at [email protected].


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