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W.E.B. Du Bois loved books and wrote lots of them. With this man's donation, Du Bois will have his own special place in Great Barrington’s library

Randy Weinstein, Du Bois Center Great Barrington

Randy Weinstein, founder of the Du Bois Center Great Barrington, with some of his collection of W.E.B. Du Bois artifacts and volumes on African American history. Weinstein's collection has found a new home at the Mason Library in town.

GREAT BARRINGTON — The town’s Mason Library may soon be the keeper of artifacts related to civil rights architect W.E.B. Du Bois, including his original letters, after town officials said they might accept the donation of a massive collection of Du Bois-owned and related materials.

The Select Board on Monday said it would explore holding the collection of the nonprofit Du Bois Center Great Barrington on South Main Street, and discuss the possible establishment of a W.E.B. Du Bois Center within the library — one that would dedicate the local history room to Du Bois-related materials, as well as an extensive collection of African American history books.

The library would also commingle some of that with the current collection, and host Du Bois-related programs and events.

The town would also establish an advisory committee to oversee the department.

The new Du Bois center would essentially replace the nonprofit, though founder Randy Weinstein will continue his research on Du Bois, as well as the running of his antiquarian shop, North Star Rare Books, at the same location, he said.

He said he would lend support to the center as both a citizen and as chair of the town’s W.E.B. Du Bois Legacy Committee.

He isn’t sure about the timing; that will also depend on the town.

Weinstein said that for three decades, he’s dreamed of the Du Bois legacy finding a permanent home under the town’s governance.

“Great Barrington and Du Bois are inseparable,” he said.

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The Legacy Committee is wholeheartedly behind the effort.

“I know this is his life’s work that he’s donating to the library,” said Gwendolyn VanSant, committee vice chair and CEO and founder of Multicultural BRIDGE. “I think that it’s also commendable to make all the things that he’s spend his life collecting now accessible to the community.”

VanSant also said the project would tie into the broader, ongoing movement to enmesh Du Bois into the town’s culture: The Du Bois statue planned for the front lawn of the library, the restoration of a historic Black church building that will focus on Du Bois as well as the Du Bois Boyhood Homesite.

The announcement comes about four years after the town began to embrace the legacy of Du Bois, a town native, after years of controversy surrounding his remembrance.

The town now holds, for instance, an annual W.E.B. Du Bois Festival over several days in February around his birthday, and the school district renamed the middle school for Du Bois.

Weinstein said his interest in the scholar spans far back.

“I’ve had a passion for history and Du Bois forever,” he said. “It’s an obsession of mine.”

Several decades ago he worked with troubled young people at the now-shuttered Kolburne School in New Marlborough, where he was program director.

He found historical figures like Du Bois helpful to engaging students who had been sent to the school for delinquency, he said.

He said he’ll be donating as many as 500 books to the library, and that will depend on the library’s capacity.

In his mind, Du Bois history can’t be separated out from the rest.

“There’s no difference between Du Bois in Great Barrington or regional history, because that’s what created Du Bois,” Weinstein said.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or 413-329-6871.

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