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W. E. B. DUBOIS
RIVER GARDEN PARK
Rescue the Housatonic and clean it as we have never in all the years thought before of cleaning it... restore its ancient beauty; making it the center of a town, of a valley, and perhaps-who knows? of a new measure of civilized life. -W.E.B. Du Bois, 1930
Great Barrington is "turning its back to the river," W. E. B.
Du Bois warned in a talk about the Housatonic River for the annual meeting of the alumni of Great Barrington and Searles high schools in July, 1930.
(See text of speech.) The speaker commended the town for having created what is now Stanley Park near Cottage Street, according to
The Berkshire Courier for July 24, 1930, but he "expressed the hope that upon his next visit to his native town he would see even greater improvements along the
If Du Bois were to visit today, we hope he would appreciate the result of twenty-two years of community effort to create a Housatonic River Walk, where some 2,200 volunteers have transformed a once-blighted section of riverbank into a public riverside greenway. They have removed 400 tons of rubble and debris, restored the riverbank to its native ecology and installed one half-mile of public trail. More than half of the volunteers have been school-age children and young adults. In 2000, they reclaimed an area that had served unofficially as a dump, creating a small park with lovely native plantings and a stone sitting area. This park, which serves as an entrance to River Walk, is located a few paces from where Du Bois was born. The park includes a "rain garden" where stormwater from the street is collected and cleansed by wetland plants before making its way to the river.
For some time, River Walk volunteers have been inspired by Du Bois's special regard for the "golden river" near which he was born. Again in 1961, he wrote to Searles Alumni Association president George P. Fitzpatrick and admonished the town for failing to clean and restore the river to "a clear and limpid stream, flowing gently through grass, trees, and flowers, flanked by broad roadways and parks as the life stream of the town."
Du Bois's hopes for the Housatonic summarize River Walk's mission and inspired the dedication of the River Garden to his memory.
For this valley, the river must be the center. Certainly it is the physical center; perhaps, in a sense, the spiritual center. Perhaps from that very freeing of spirit will come other freedoms and inspirations and aspirations which may be steps toward the diffusion and diversification and enriching of culture throughout this land. -W.E.B. Du Bois, 1930
The W. E. B. Du Bois River Garden was dedicated on Saturday, September 28, 2002. (See invitation and dedication program.)
A permanant outdoor exhibit––W.E.B. Du Bois: Champion of Rivers Here at Home and Around the World––was unveiled on September 8, 2012.
The River Park is a site on the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail.
Contributions to the perpetual care of River Walk and the W E B Du Bois River Garden are tax-deductible and may be sent to:
Housatonic River Walk
P. O. Box 1018
Gt. Barrington, MA 01230 USA
Contact Rachel Fletcher (413) 528-3391 firstname.lastname@example.org