John Bracey, Black studies pioneer at UMass, dies at 81


Credit: University Photograph Collection, Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives Research Center, UMass Amherst Libraries.

Dr. John H. Bracey Jr., longtime faculty member in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, died over the weekend. He was 81.

Bracey was integral to creating one of the nation’s first doctoral programs in African American studies at UMass. For over 50 years, he has served roles as professor, department chair and co-director of the graduate certificate program in African Diaspora Studies. 

“He was a true champion for Black Studies and Black students, and his tireless work to advance racial justice made us a much better university community,” wrote Chancellor Subbaswamy in an email sent to the campus community. 

Born in Chicago and raised in Washington D.C, Bracey earned his BA from Howard University and Roosevelt University, and he did graduate work at Roosevelt and Northwestern University. 

During the 60s, he was involved with the Civil Rights, Black Liberation, and Peace movements in Chicago, and he was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Chicago Friends of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Revolutionary Action movement.

More recently, Bracey worked with students to create the UMass Black Presence Initiative, a website celebrating the experiences, contributions and stories of Black students, staff and alumni through oral history interviews and historical research.

His major academic interests were in African social and cultural history, radical ideologies and movements, and the history of African American women. More recently, his research centered on the interactions between Native Americans, Native Americans, Afro-Latinx and Jewish Americans. His publications consist of several co-edited books.

In 2021, the John H. Bracey Jr. Fellowship Fund was established to support doctoral students in the Department of Afro-American Studies with their summer fellowships. 

“John’s lifetime of activism in Black Studies, thoughtful leadership, and meaningful student mentorship created a lasting impact that extends far beyond our college and the university,” wrote Barbara Krauthamer, Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. “He is a luminary.”

Facebook Comments