Help us create an African American Cultural Heritage Center in the hometown of W.E.B. Du Bois
The Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church, located at 9 Elm Court in downtown Great Barrington, Massachusetts, was the spiritual, cultural, and political heart of African American life in the southern Berkshire community for nearly 130 years. Built in 1887 by the A.M.E. Zion Society, the church was a formative influence in the life of civil rights pioneer and NAACP co-founder W.E.B. Du Bois, who was born and raised in this rural New England town.
A Community Mission
Clinton Church Restoration’s mission is to restore the historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church for adaptive reuse as a vibrant cultural heritage center that interprets the life and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, honors the historic role of the church, and celebrates the Berkshires’ rich African American heritage.
Since 2016, a group of former congregants, community stakeholders, historians, designers and preservationists have been working collaboratively to develop plans for a new cultural heritage center that will serve as a community resource for local residents, an educational resource for students, and a destination for tourists. Key elements of the as-yet-unnamed center include:
- Exhibits and programming that interpret the region’s rich African American history and the life and legacy of civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Du Bois
- Oral history recording studio
- Talks, film screenings, concerts, and other events in a flexible performance space
- Convenings of scholars, writers and artists from across the African diaspora
- Community meeting space and fellowship hall with an adjacent kitchen
- Visitor center that connects sites on the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail by offering tours, maps and education about local history
To date, Clinton Church Restoration has secured over $2 million from 500-plus individuals, businesses, federal, state, municipal and foundation grants. An initial phase of stabilization and roof work has been completed, along with an interpretive plan, a preservation plan for the historic interiors, and schematic-level designs for the planned center.
“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