“I have a sentimental desire to keep this place which was the home of my grandfather, the birthplace of my mother, and the place that I remember in my earliest childhood.”
Du Bois, in a 1925 letter to Edward Wooster
For a sixtieth birthday in 1928, friends at the NAACP gave to Du Bois the Burghardt family homestead. Although he wanted to renovate his grandfather’s house, Du Bois never had the funds and had to sell the property. The house was demolished in 1954. In 1967 the idea for a national memorial to Dr. Du Bois was born when Professor Edmund W. Gordon and Walter Wilson, a local realtor, purchased the Homesite property, establishing the Du Bois Memorial Foundation a year later. The five-acre parcel includes the original Burghardt family homestead where Du Bois spent his early boyhood.
In 1987 the Du Bois Memorial Foundation donated the National Historic Landmark to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, designating the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, as custodian. The Homesite is an active teaching and research site for students and faculty at the UMass Amherst Anthropology Department.
The Homesite is open to the public and offers an interpretive trail that can be visited spring, summer, and fall. The self-guided interpretive trail takes visitors through a cathedral of pines to the 1969 commemorative boulder and to the foundation of the original family homestead, where Du Bois’s ancestors farmed on the edge of the Egremont Plain. The interpretive trail highlights Du Bois’s journey from rural New England to the world stage and the efforts to recognize this extraordinary man.
A wide path through the woods surfaced with wood chips constitutes the trail. There is a parking lot suitable for a school bus and cars. Currently, no facilities exist at the Homesite.
The five-acre Du Bois Homesite brings awareness to African American heritage in New England through Du Bois’s maternal lineage, the Black Burghardts, dating from the 1700s. In 1983, 1984, and 2003 the University of Massachusetts Archaeological Field School conducted excavations, uncovering nearly 30,000 artifacts. These investigations illuminate the lives of Du Bois’s rural ancestors and how they created a distinctive African American home place in New England. A “living memorial,” the property continues to yield discoveries about the daily life of the Black Burghardts. Summer 2012 the fourth field school took place.
Du Bois identified his family’s homestead in Great Barrington as a place of pride in his African American heritage. With the purchase of the Homesite, the Du Bois Memorial Committee planned a memorial park and public dedication. Despite resistance from local officials and citizens, the dedication ceremony took place on October 18, 1969 with Civil Rights activist and future Georgia legislator Julian Bond as the speaker and actor Ossie Davis as the master of ceremony. Among the more than 200 founding sponsors of the memorial park were Horace Mann Bond, Aaron Copland, Ruby Dee, William Gibson, Martin Luther King Jr., Sidney Poitier, and Norman Rockwell. The event was marked with a commemorative boulder, which can be viewed today along the interpretive trail. Watch a short video of the dedication.