Du Bois Center merits recognition

Written Sep 8, 2014 by Alan Schiff in Berkshire Eagle

I am a former Pittsfield resident and though I moved away 40 years ago, I have returned to the Berkshires once or twice each year with my family. Over the course of those years, we have poked into many corners of the county, biked miles of back roads, and joyfully returned to the countless cultural venues we cherish.

During a recent visit I was delighted to stumble across an unheralded gem in Great Barrington. The Du Bois Center at 684 South Main St. is a handsome and well-conceived tribute to the late civil rights pioneer and Berkshire native, W.E.B. Du Bois. The center’s founder and director, an impassioned educator and archivist, has assembled a focused assortment of books and ephemera related to Du Bois. The unusual collection is presented in an attractive user- friendly space, with the director nearby to respond to questions and provide historical context to the amazing artifacts housed at the center’s Museum of Civil Rights Pioneers.

Although I discovered that the center has existed since 2006, I’ve never seen it mentioned in any of the local tourist publications. Even The New York Times neglected to cite the center in an otherwise fine article about the Berkshires on July 3 that included among its highlights of the area the Upper Housatonic Valley African-American Heritage Trail. I only discovered this marvelous regional resource when visiting a nearby shop.

Du Bois’ life is a fascinating counterpoint to the Gilded Age and the grand cottages it spawned.

That Du Bois, who was an extraordinary intellect, luminous but largely unrecognized by society at large, arose from humble beginnings in Great Barrington is a fact that should be celebrated.

Along with the countless other reasons to appreciate the Berkshires, I would encourage readers of The Eagle and visitors to the area to take an intentional detour to visit the Du Bois Center. I was pleased to learn that the center is a nonprofit organization and hope that the next time we visit, we will see this small but substantial center promoted along side the other better known Berkshire attractions.


Wyncote, Pa.