The history of the W.E.B. Du Bois Homesite in Great Barrington Massachusetts is traced from the present to its earliest inhabitation after the arrival of Europeans and African captives. Social processes of class and race operating at different time scales have constrained the ways the members of Du Bois’s maternal relatives, and more recently private foundations and the public institution of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, have made use of the property. The Homesite figures in Du Bois’s memories of his childhood and was a source of pride during his 26 years of ownership. Telling its story backwards provides insights into how larger social and ideological forces affected individual actions, observations that provide guidance for future commemoration efforts at this National Historic Landmark site honoring the accomplishments of W.E.B. Du Bois.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Baker, V. G. (1978). Historical archaeology at Black Lucy’s Garden, Papers of the Robert S Peabody Foundation for Archaeology, Andover.
Baker, V. G. (1980). Archaeological visibility of Afro-American culture: an example from Black Lucy’s Garden, Andover, Mass. In Schuyler, R. L. (ed.), Archaeological perspectives on ethnicity in America, Farmingdale, Baywood, pp. 29–37.
Bass, A. (2009). Those About Him Remained Silent: The Battle Over W.E.B Du Bois, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
Battle-Baptiste, W. L. (2011). Black feminsit archaeology, Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek.
Beaudry, M. C., Cook, L. J., and Mrozowski, S. A. (1991). Artifacts and active voices: material culture as social discourse. In McGuire, R. H., and Paynter, R. (eds.), The archaeology of inequality, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 150–191.
Bender, B. (1998). Stonehenge: making space, Berg, New York.
Binford, L. R. (1972). An archaeological perspective, Seminar Press, New York.
Blakey, M. L., and Rankin-Hill, L. (eds.) (2004). New York African burial ground skeletal biology report, W. Montague Cobb Anthropology Laboratory, Howard University and The Institute for Historical Biology, Department of Anthropology, College of William and Mary, Washington.
Bower, B. A. (1986). The African Meeting House Boston, Massachusetts, Summary Report of Archaeological Excavations, 1975–1986, Museum of Afro American History, Massachusetts.
Bower, B. A. (1991). Material culture in Boston: the Black experience. In McGuire, R. H., and Paynter, R. (eds.), The archaeology of inequality, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 55–63.
Bower, B. A., and Rushing, B. (1980). The African Meeting House: the center for 19th century Afro-American community in Boston. In Schuyler, R. L. (ed.), Archaeological perspectives on ethnicity in America, Baywood, Farmingdale, pp. 69–75.
Breen, T. H. (1997). Making history: the force of public opinion and the last years of slavery in Revolutionary Massachusetts. In Hoffman, R., Sobel, M., and Teute, F. J. (eds.), Through a glass darkly: reflections on personal identity in Early America, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, pp. 67–95.
Bridges, S. T., and Salwen, B. (1980). Weeksville: the archaeology of a Black urban community. In Schuyler, R. L. (ed.), Archaeological perspectives on ethnicity in America, Baywood, Farmingdale, pp. 38–47.
Bullen, R., and Bullen, A. (1945). Black Lucy’s Garden. Bulletin o f the Massachusetts Archaeological Society 6(2): 17–28.
Callinicos, A. (1995). Theories and narratives: reflections on the philosophy of history, Duke University Press, Durham.
Deetz, J. (1996). In small things forgotten: an archaeology of Early American life. Expanded and Revised, Anchor Books, New York.
Delle, J. A., and Levine, M. A. (2004). Excavations at the Thaddeus Stevens and Lydia Hamilton Smith Site, Lancaster, Pennsylvania: archaeological evidence for the Underground Railroad? Northeast Historical Archaeology 33: 131–152.
Drew, B. A. (1999). Great Barrington: Great Town, Great History, Great Barrington Historical Society, Great Barrington.
Drew, B. A. (2002). Fifty sites in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, associated with the civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois, Great Barrington Land Conservancy and Great Barrington Historical Society, Great Barrington.
Drew, B. A. (2004). If they close the door on you, go in the window: origins of the African American Community in Sheffield, Great Barrington and Stockbridge, Attic Revivals, Great Barrington.
Drew, B. A. (2006). Dr. Du Bois rebuilds his dream house, Attic Revivals Press, Great Barrington.
Drew, B. A. (2008). UMass builds new woods trail, parking lot, Newsletter of the Friends of the Du Bois Homesite, Great Barrington.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1899). The Philadelphia Negro: a social study. Together with a Special Report on Domestic Service, by Isabel Eaton, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1920a). The damnation of women. In Du Bois, W. E. B. (ed.), Darkwater, Harcourt Brace, New York, pp. 95–108.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1920b). Darkwater: voices from within the veil, Harcourt Brace, New York.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1924). The gift of black folk: The Negroes in the making of America, Stratford, Boston.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1928a). Dark princess: a romance, Harcourt Brace, New York.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1928b). The house of the Black Burghardts. The Crisis 35(4): 133–134.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1930). The housatonic: speech of W.E DuBois, ‘84, at the annual meeting of the alumni of Searles High School, July 21, 1930, Berkshire Courier, Great Barrington, p. 6.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1935). Black reconstruction in America: an essay toward a history of the part which black folk played in the attempt to reconstruct democracy in America, 1860–1880, Harcourt Brace, Cleveland.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1939). Black folk, then and now: an essay in the history and sociology of the Negro race, Henry Holt, N.Y.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1940a). Dusk of dawn: an essay toward an autobiography of a race concept, Transaction, New Brunswick.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1940b). The white world. Dusk of dawn: An essay toward an autobiography of a race concept, Harcourt Brace, New York, pp. 134–172.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1965). The world and Africa: an inquiry into the part which africa has played in world history, International Publishers, New York.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1968). The Autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the last Decade of It First Century, International Publishers, New York.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1969 ). The Souls of Black Folk. With Introductions by Dr. Nathan Hare and Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D. New American Library, New York.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1971 ). Last Message: Dr. Du Bois to the World. In Lester, J. (ed.), The Seventh Son: The Thought and Writings of W. E. B. Du Bois Vol. 2.Vintage Books, New York, p. 736.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1995 ). The African roots of the war. In Lewis, D. L. (ed.), W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader. Henry Holt, New York, pp. 642–651.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (1995 (1920)). The souls of white folk. In Lewis, D. L. (ed.), W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader. Henry Holt, New York, pp. 453–465.
Fennell, C. C. (2007). Crossroads and cosmologies, diasporas and ethnogenesis in the new world, University of Florida Press, Gainesville.
Fletcher, R. (2006). W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Committee. In Levinson, D. (ed.), African American Heritage in the Upper Housatonic Valley, Berkshire Publishing, Great Barrington, pp. 37–39.
Geismar, J. H. (1982). The archeology of social disintegration in skunk hollow: a nineteenth century rural black community, Academic, New York.
Gero, J. M., Lacy, D. M., and Blakey, M. (eds.) (1983). The socio-politics of archaeology, Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts.
Glassberg, D., and Paynter, R. (2012). Du Bois in Great Barrington: the promises and pitfalls of a boyhood homesite. In Bruggeman, S. C. (ed.), Born In the U.S.A.: Birth, Commemoration, and American Public Memory, University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, pp. 240–257.
Gordon, E. W. and Wilson, W. (1969). Fundraising Material for the W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Committee. Files of Rachel Fletcher. Great Barrington, MA, p. 3.
Gould, D. R. (2010). Contested places: the history and meaning of Hassanamisco, Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut, Storrs.
Gunn, E. S. (2006). Elaine Gunn’s reflections: life in the invisible community. In Levinson, D. (ed.), African American Heritage in the Upper Housatonic Valley, Berkshire Publishing, Great Barrington, pp. 150–156.
Gunn, E. S., and Fletcher, R. (2006). Ruth D. Jones, perserver of the legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois. In Levinson, D. (ed.), African American Heritage in the Upper Housatonic Valley, Berkshire Publishing, Great Barrington, pp. 45–47.
Harrison, F. V. (1992). The Du Boisian legacy in anthropology. Critique of Anthropology 12(3): 239–260.
Hodder, I. (1986). Reading the past: current approaches to interpretation in archaeology, Cambridge University Press, New York.
Hodder, I. (ed.) (1987). Archaeology as long-term history, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Hodder, I. (ed.) (1989). The meanings of things: material culture and symbolic expression, Unwin Hyman, London.
Horne, G. (1986). Black and Red: W.E.B Du Bois and the Afro-American Response to the Cold War 1944–1963, State University of New York Press, Albany.
Judt, T., and Snyder, T. (2012). Thinking the twentieth century, Penguin, New York.
Leone, M. P. (2005). The archaeology of liberty in an American capital: excavations in Annapolis, University of California Press, Berkeley.
Leone, M. P., and Fry, G.-M. (1999). Conjuring in the big house kitchen: an interpretation of African-American belief systems based on the use of archaeology and folkore sources. Journal of American Folklore 122: 372–403.
Lester, J. (ed.) (1971). The Seventh Son: The Thought and Writings of W. E. B. Du Bois. Vol. 1. Edited with an Introduction by Julius Lester, Vintage, New York.
Levine, M. A., Britt, K. M., and Delle, J. A. (2005). Heritage tourism and community outreach: public archaeology at the Thaddeus Stevens and Lydia Hamilton Smith Site in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA. International Journal of Heritage Studies 11: 399–414.
Levinson, D. (ed.) (2006). African American Heritage in the Upper Housatonic Valley, Berkshire Publishing, Great Barrington.
Lewis, D. L. (1993). W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868–1919, Henry Holt, New York.
Lewis, D. L. (2000). W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919–1963, Henry Holt, New York.
Little, B. J., and Shackel, P. A. (2007). Archaeology as a tool of civic engagement, Altamira Press, Lanham.
Lowenthal, D. (1998). The heritage crusade and the spoils of history, Cambridge University Press, New York.
Marable, M. (1986). W.E.B Du Bois, black radical democrat, Twayne, Boston.
McBride, K. (1990). The historical archaeology of the Mashantucket Pequots, 1637–1900: a preliminary analysis. In Hauptman, L. M., and Wherry, J. D. (eds.), The Pequots in Southern New England: the fall and rise of an American Indian Nation, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, pp. 96–116.
McDonald, J. D., Zimmerman, L. J., McDonald, A. L., Bull, W. T., and Sun, T. R. (1991). The Northern Cheyenne Outbreak of 1879: using oral history and archaeology as tools of resistance. In McGuire, R. H., and Paynter, R. (eds.), The archaeology of inequality, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 64–78.
Mrozowski, S. A. (2006). The archaeology of class in Urban America, Cambridge University Press, New York.
Mrozowski, S. A., Herbster, H., and Priddy, K. L. (2009). Magunkaquog materiality, federal recognition, and the search for a deeper history. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 13: 430–463.
Muller, N. (1994). The house of the Black Burghardts: an investigation of race, gender, and class at the W. E. B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite. In Scott, E. M. (ed.), Those of little note, University of Arizona Press, Tucson, pp. 81–94.
Muller, N. L. (2001). W.E.B Du Bois and the House of the Black Burghardts: Land, Family and African Americans in New England, Department of Anthropolog, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Nassaney, M. S., and Abel, M. R. (2000). Urban spaces, labor organization, and social control: lessons from New England’s nineteenth-century cutlery industry. In Delle, J. A., Mrozowski, S. A., and Paynter, R. (eds.), Lines that Divide: Historical Archaeologies of Race, Class, and Gender, University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, pp. 239–275.
Ollman, B. (1976). Alienation: Marx’s conception of man in capitalist society, Second ed, Cambridge University Press, New York.
Ollman, B. (1993). Studying history backward: a neglected feature of Marx’s materialist conception of history. In Ollman, B. (ed.), Dialectial investigations, Routledge, New York, pp. 133–146.
Ollman, B. (2003). Introduction: Marxism, this tale of two cities. In Ollman, B. (ed.), Dance of the dialectic: step’s in Marx’s method, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, pp. 1–8.
Orser, C. E., Jr. (2004). Race and practice in archaeological interpretation, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.
Orser, C. E., Jr., (2007). The archaeology of race and racialization in historic America, University Press of Florida, Tallahassee.
Page, M., and Mason, R. (eds.) (2004). Giving preservation a history: histories of historic preseravation in the United States, Routledge, New York.
Parrish, J. N. (1981). House of the Black Burghardt’s W.E.B. Du Bois Boy Hood Home, Massachusetts Historical Commission Historic Resource Survey Historic Archeologic Sites, Boston.
Paynter, R. (1992). W. E. B. Du Bois and the material world of African-Americans in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Critique of Anthropology 12: 277–291.
Paynter, R. and Glassberg, D. (2010). The W.E.B. Du Bois Homesite Project. Museum International 245/246(May): 57–60.
Paynter, R., Hautaniemi, S., and Muller, N. (1994). The Landscapes of the W. E. B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite: An Agenda for an Archaeology of the Color Line. In Gregory, S., and Sanjek, R. (eds.), Race, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, pp. 285–318.
Paynter, R., Harlow, E., Jeffers, E., Diffley, J. and Loan, M. (2006). Erasing and commemorating Du Bois: the politics of an historic landscape. Paper delivered at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. San Jose, CA.
Paynter, R., Lynch, K., Norris, E., and Lewis, Q. (2008a). Draft Archaeological Report of Fieldwork in 1983, 1984, and 2003 at the W.E.B Du Bois Boyhood Homesite, Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst.
Paynter, R., Lynch, K., Norris, E., and Lewis, Q. (2008b). Draft chapter three documentary background. Archaeology at the W.E.B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite, University of Massachusetts Scholarworks, Amherst.
Perry, W., Howson, J., and Bianco, B. A. (eds.) (2006). New York African burial ground archaeology final report Vols 1–4, Howard University, Washington.
Price, M. (2011). The man who gave Head Start a start. Monitor on Psychology 42(10): 86.
Rampersad, A. (1976). The Art and Imagination of W.E. B. Du Bois, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
Saitta, D. J. (2007). The archaeology of collective action, University of Florida Press, Gainesville.
Schuyler, R. L. (1980). Sandy Ground: archaeology of a 19th century oystering village. In Schuyler, R. L. (ed.), Archaeological perspectives on ethnicity in America, Baywood, Farmingdale, pp. 48–59.
Shackel, P. A. (1995). Terrible saint: changing meanings of the John Brown Fort. Historical Archaeology 29(4): 11–25.
Shackel, P. A. (2003). Memory in black and white: race, commemoration, and the post-bellum landscape, AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek.
Shanks, M., and Tilley, C. (1987a). Re-constructing archaeology: theory and practice, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Shanks, M., and Tilley, C. (1987b). Social theory and archaeology, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Silliman, S., and Dring, K. H. S. (2008). Working on pasts for futures: Eastern Pequot field school archaeology in Connecticut. In Silliman, S. (ed.), Collaborating at the Trowel’s Edge: teaching and learning in indigenous archaeology, University of Arizona Press, Tucson, pp. 67–87.
Spaulding, A. C. (1960). The dimensions of archaeology. In Dole, G. E., and Carneiro, R. L. (eds.), Essays in the Science of Culture in Honor of Leslie A. White, Crowell, New York, pp. 437–456.
Spector, J. D. (1993). What this awl means: feminist archeology at a Wahpeton Dakota Village, Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul.
Trouillot, M.-R. (1995). Silencing the past: power and production of history, Beacon, Boston.
Turner, S. (1976). Black sheep of the native sons. Berkshire Week. p. 8.
Wallerstein, I. (2011). The Modern World-System IV: Centrist Liberalism Triumphant, 1789–1914, University of Califorina Press, Berkeley.
Watson, P. J., LeBlanc, S. A., and Redman, C. L. (1971). Explanation in archaeology, Columbia University Press, New York.
White, H. (1973). Metahistory: the historical imagination in nineteenth-century Europe, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
White, H. (1987). The content of the form: narrative discourse and historical representation, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.
Wilcox, D. J. (1987). The measures of times past: pre-newtonian chronologies and the rhetoric of time, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Wobst, H. M. (1999). Style in archaeology or archaeologists in style. In Chilton, E. S. (ed.), Critical approaches to the interpretation of material culture, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, pp. 118–132.
Wobst, H. M. (2000). Agency in (spite of) material culture. In Dobres, M.-A., and Robb, J. (eds.), Agency in archaeology, Routledge, London, pp. 40–50.
Woodruff, J., Sawyer, G. F., and Perry, W. R. (2007). How archaeology exposes the nature of African captivity and freedom in eighteenth and nineteenth century Connecticut. Connecticut History 46: 155–183.
Wurst, L. (1991). “Employees must be of moral and temperate habits”: rural and urban elite ideologies. In McGuire, R. H., and Paynter, R. (eds.), The archaeology of inequality, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 125–149.
Wurst, L. (1999). Internalizing class in historical archaeology. Historical Archaeology 33(1): 7–21.
Zilversmit, A. (1968). Quok Walker, Mumbet, and the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts. William and Mary Quarterly 25: 614–624.
The 1772 Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Office of the President of the University of Massachusetts, the Offices of the Chancellor, the W.E.B. Du Bois Center, the Provost, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement, the Physical Plant Department of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Historic Deerfield, Inc. have provided funding that has led to archaeological research and heritage work at the W.E.B. Du Bois Homesite for which I am most grateful. Fortunately for me, LouAnn Wurst and Stephen Mrozowski invited me to be part of this project. Steve, Bernard Drew, and Rachel Fletcher supplied written commentary that significantly helped this paper along. Another fortunate outcome of this experiment in writing is that people who usually get a cursory thanks in the Acknowledgements have been more fully recognized in the text of the paper. And even so, all these contributors and collaborators have done more than the text has captured. My thanks to them all.
Those needing a clearer acknowledgement include the staff of the Buildings and Grounds Physical Plant Department of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, especially Assistant Director Pamela Monn and Jack Rogala. They have taken attentive care of the Homesite and solved the practical problems (and some bureaucratic ones) associated with its development. New and wonderful information from The Du Bois papers emerges because of their expert curation, beginning with Linda Seidman, and now by Curator of Collections Danielle Kovacs and Head of Special Collections and University Archives Rob Cox. The field school students, through their work at the site and in the lab, made all the interpretation possible; they are recognized en masse here, and I recognize them by name in the report where a more lengthy listing is possible. Special recognition is due to Rita Reinke, Rick Gumaer, Kerry Lynch, Elizabeth Norris, Quentin Lewis, Honora Sullivan-Chin, Chris Douyard, Anthony Martin, and Elena Sesma, who helped direct the educational and research work of the field schools. Evelyn Jeffers has provided unflagging support and numerous insights from a cultural anthropologist’s perspective about the Du Bois Homesite project. Ed Bell of the Massachusetts Historical Commission has been a source of encouragement for this site that lies so close to his Alma Mater. Whitney Battle-Baptiste, David Glassberg, Bill Strickland, Rachel Fletcher, Bernie Drew, and Dolores Root have been constant sources of support and insight. Finally much is owed to David Graham Du Bois, who kept his father’s legacy alive and inspired work in Great Barrington, the Reverend Esther Dozier who preached to all from one of Du Bois’s places of worship and helped us see what the real work was, and Chancellor Randolph Bromery who had the foresight to obtain Du Bois’s papers for the University of Massachusetts and thereby initiate its stewardship of the Du Bois legacy. They have all passed, Chancellor Bromery quite recently, but will continue to be precedents for all that follows. Mr. Theodore Hitchcock, the owner of the house inside the U of the Homesite, was one of the people who opposed the 1969 dedication ceremony. We had cordial relations in the 1980s, which over the years developed into ones of friendly mutual regard. I am saddened by his recent death and will miss our neighbor.