Help us create an African American Cultural Heritage Center in the hometown of W.E.B. Du Bois
Clinton Church Restoration (CCR) is restoring the historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church in downtown Great Barrington for adaptive reuse as an African American heritage site and cultural center dedicated to educating the public about the life and legacy of civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Du Bois and the Berkshires’ rich African American history.
Located at 9 Elm Court, the church was the spiritual, cultural, and political heart of Black life in the southern Berkshire community for nearly 130 years. The A.M.E. Zion Society that built the church in 1886-87, was a formative influence in the life of Du Bois, the pioneering author, intellectual and NAACP co-founder who was born and raised in Great Barrington. The shingle-style church is also historically and architecturally significant for its association with the religious and cultural heritage of African Americans in rural New England and as a distinctive example of 19th-century vernacular church architecture. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Clinton Church Restoration’s phased program to restore and repurpose the former church, vacant since 2014, will return it to the center of community life in Du Bois’ hometown, where it will be transformed into a cultural hub inspired by his work as a seminal writer, scholar and activist of international stature. Exhibits and programming will also honor local African American history and culture. Key components of the center will be a flexible performance space, interpretive exhibits and artifacts, a visitor center, oral history recording studio, library, community meeting space and commercial kitchen.
Restoration of this National Register property will not only save a key component of our rich catalogue of historic buildings, it will preserve a significant community legacy. The project is part of a growing national trend to save historically significant African American sites, and bring their hidden and untold stories into the light as part of our complex American story. In the Berkshires, the repurposed Clinton Church will enrich the cultural landscape and contribute to its economic vitality by creating a unique site of national (and international) significance.
“This initiative will not only preserve an important piece of African American history in rural New England, it is vital to interpreting the life and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois in his hometown… Interpretative exhibits and programing at the church will add an important piece of the Du Bois story for visitors who come to Great Barrington to walk the grounds of his boyhood homesite, visit the downtown site of his birth and learn about his complicated life and legacy.”
—David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning Du Bois biographer