Our vision is to build a national and international destination in Great Barrington, Massachusetts that will engage the public in W.E.B. Du Bois’s life, global significance, and relevance to important issues of our time.
The vision for a memorial to honor Du Bois was conceived in 1967 when Professor Edmund W. Gordon and Walter Wilson, a local realtor, purchased the Du Bois Homesite property. This five-acre parcel in Great Barrington includes the original homestead of Du Bois’s maternal family, and was designated a National Historic landmark in 1979.
In 2009 a diverse group of scholars, community people, and museum professionals came together to re-envision a destination honoring Du Bois in the twenty-first century. The W.E.B. Du Bois Homesite and Great Barrington: A Plan for Heritage Conservation and Interpretation identifies three venues that offer the public the opportunity to learn about and pay their respects to Du Bois, and actively engage with the questions and issues to which Du Bois devoted his life and which continue to be relevant today.
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Each venue offers a unique opportunity for experiencing Du Bois’s life and legacy, and together they make up the W.E.B. Du Bois National Historic Site:
- W.E.B. Du Bois Homesite
- W.E.B. Du Bois Downtown Great Barrington Walking Tour
- W.E.B. Du Bois Center for Democracy and Social Justice
In Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the Homesite—a sacred place—holds a deep history of Du Bois’s ancestry going back to the early 1800s and is a place of contemplation and commemoration. The existing woodland interpretive trail will be expanded to illuminate more about Du Bois’s journey from this small rural farming community to world prominence.
A “living memorial” with ongoing archaeological investigations, the site has yielded discoveries about the daily life of Du Bois’s ancestors. Future digital technology will provide further opportunities for enriching the archaeological interpretation. Future plans for the Homesite include an outdoor amphitheater and gathering space, which will accommodate up to 50 people.
In addition, we plan to expand the parking area and build an interpretive shelter that includes bathroom facilities.
Great Barrington Walking Tour
A piece of our vision is to place Du Bois prominently in the downtown Great Barrington landscape through signage at places significant to Du Bois as a youth and in later life. While many of the building sites no longer exist, there is sufficient historical information to tell a unique story at each site.
Currently, W.E.B. Du Bois in Great Barrington is a self-guided walking and motor tour, and we plan to enhance it with signage marking each location as well as adding an audio guide.
W.E.B. Du Bois Center for Democracy and Social Justice
With an active program of exhibits, public programs, and cultural exchanges, the W.E.B. Du Bois Center for Democracy and Social Justice will be a year-round facility. The Center will be a public forum for ongoing scholarship around the principles of equality and social justice that defined Du Bois’s life and work, and it will have strong ties with the W.E.B. Du Bois Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Center for Pan African Culture in Accra, Ghana.
Reflecting Du Bois’s global perspective and local experience, the Center is envisioned as a place for youth and for youth leadership activities focusing on global citizenship. To be a dynamic living place dedicated to community and education, the Center for Democracy and Social Justice will promote the principles Du Bois believed would lead to a more just society. It will also serve the vital function of integrating and providing information about the other venues—the Homesite and Walking Tour—which together make up the W.E.B. Du Bois National Historic Site.
The best location for the W.E.B. Du Bois Center for Democracy and Social Justice is in downtown Great Barrington. The facility will be approximately 7,500 square feet, and the interior space will include:
- Lobby and visitor orientation
- Long-term exhibition and changing exhibit space
- Gathering space/classrooms with flexible interiors
- Computer stations with direct access to digital archives
- Studio/office for artist/scholar in residence
- Gift shop
- Administrative office
We have a ten-year plan for fully realizing this vision. It will unfold in phases. Currently, visitors can visit the Homesite and take the Walking Tour.