Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
W.E.B. Du Bois Papers
Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:
There are no restrictions on access to the contents of the collection. Since many of the items are fragile, however, researchers are requested to use the microfilm whenever possible.
The collection is open for research.
Cite as: W.E.B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Most of the Du Bois papers at the University of Massachusetts were microfilmed in l979 and are available in many locations in the United States and elsewhere, or through interlibrary loan, or by purchase from University Microfilms International.
Images from this collection are also available in the Online Exhibit of Materials from the Du Bois Papers.
History of the Collection
During his lifetime Du Bois conscientiously retained his incoming letters, copies of his outgoing letters, and files of his speeches, articles, books and other manuscripts. While these files were most complete for the middle and later stages of his life, all periods are represented to some degree in this collection. Some papers were transferred at various times to Fisk University, Yale University and the Schomburg Center of the New York Public Library, but Du Bois retained ownership of most of his papers pending a final decision on a repository site.
When Du Bois moved to Ghana in 1961, he left the bulk of his papers with Herbert Aptheker in New York City and named him as editor of a planned edition of Du Bois' correspondence and other works. While Du Bois did take some correspondence and other manuscripts to Africa, Aptheker was left the greater part of the collection, which he and his wife arranged into workable order and supplemented with copies of many Du Bois materials they located in other repositories. The last two years of Du Bois' life generated additional papers including new correspondence, papers relating to the Encyclopedia Africana, and other manuscripts. At Du Bois' death in 1963, ownership of his files passed to his widow, Shirley Graham Du Bois. When President Nkrumah's government was overthrown in 1966, Mrs. Du Bois left Ghana in haste for Cairo, Egypt, taking the papers with her. Aptheker continued to care for the papers left with him until the entire collection went to Massachusetts in 1973. In the early 1970s, aware that plans for a permanent location had not been made, University of Massachusetts officials negotiated an agreement with Mrs. Du Bois for all of Dr. Du Bois' papers to come to the University. Since then, accretions to the collection have been received from David Du Bois, Herbert Aptheker, Randolph Bromery, David Levering Lewis, Veoria Shivery, U. S. Department of State, Federal Bureau of Investigation (by request through the Freedom of Information Act) and others.
Processed by Robert W. McDonnell. Biographical essay by Kerry W. Buckley.