Great Barrington and the Civil Rights Movement

January 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Great Barrington and the Civil Rights Movement

When you think of rural New England and the Berkshires, the Civil Rights Movement is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. You might be surprised to learn that our hometown, Great Barrington, and several nearby Berkshire towns, are actually rich in African American history.

Most famously, W.E.B. DuBois was born and raised right here in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Though the house he grew up in no longer stands, the homesite is now a National Historic Site which you can visit 3 seasons a year and take a self-guided tour to learn more about DuBois.

W.E.B. DuBois was a civil rights activist, a leading intellectual of his time. He was the first African American to receive a PhD from Harvard and one of the earliest leaders of the NAACP.

Nearby, along the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail, you can visit the Col. Ashley House in Sheffield, where Elizabeth ‘Mum Bett’ Freeman fought a legal battle for her freedom, eventually leading to the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. day, it’s important to remember the battle for equal rights was not limited to just the south, and even Great Barrington raised one of the country’s earliest and most influential leaders of the civil rights movement.


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