In the spirit of community pride, each BerkShare features prominent local figures from our region’s dynamic and rich history; the Mahicans of Stockbridge, Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, Robyn Van En, Herman Melville and Norman Rockwell.
First and foremost, we honor the indigenous people whose land we inhabit. We also acknowledge those who have dedicated their lives to restoring and protecting the natural heritage of the Berkshires for future generations. This region has given birth to and attracted a remarkable array of pioneers in the fields of civil rights, academia, literature, the arts and social justice. These are the people who have bettered the world with their courage, their ideas and their achievements.
In the following pages and in the links and contacts which follow, we honor the memory of those who built our community and in whose footsteps we follow. We also acknowledge the work of those who carry on their legacy and the local heroes who make the Berkshire region the vibrant community it is today.
Contributed by Lion G. Miles
The first people of Berkshire County were Algonquians, known variously as Mohicans, Stockbridge Indians, and River Indians. Having dispersed from their homeland along the Hudson River in the seventeenth century, they had two small settlements at Stockbridge and Great Barrington when the first English settlers reached this area. These Mohicans sold portions of today's Berkshire County to the English in 1724, became one of the earliest Indian tribes to be Christianized, and paved the way for the future settlement of western Massachusetts.
W. E. B. Du Bois
Gifted scholar, historian, sociologist, and founder of the civil rights movement Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois was born in Great Barrington in 1868. He is known as the ‘father of Social Science’ for his innovative scientific approach to the study of Black civilization and culture, and for founding the first Department of Sociology in the U.S. at Atlanta University. In 1896, Du Bois became the first Black person to receive a PhD from Harvard University, and throughout his illustrious academic life authored numerous books including the seminal work, The Souls of Black Folk. He was a leader in the Pan-African movement, founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and 25-year editor of the NAACP Magazine The Crisis. He is internationally renowned as one of the leading intellectuals of his time, and revered for his lifelong committment to the freedom of all peoples.
Robyn Van En
Robyn Van En was a co-founder of the very first community supported agriculture (CSA) project in North America at Indian Line Farm in South Egremont and was the foremost pioneer of the CSA movement on the continent. Robyn also co-founded the Berkshire Regional Food and Land Council, known today as Berkshire Grown, which promotes locally produced food, flowers and plants in the Berkshire region and builds partnerships between farmers, chefs and consumers. As founder of CSA of North America, a nonprofit clearinghouse to support CSA development, she spoke, educated, organized and advocated for CSAs and sustainable agriculture from coast to coast. In a little over ten years, she directly assisted in the formation of more than 200 CSAs across the country.
Famous in his lifetime for a series of fictional best sellers based upon his adventures at sea, Herman Melville is best known today as the author of one of the greatest of all American novels, Moby Dick (1851). Initially dismissed by critics of the time, it remained hidden in obscurity until its brilliance was finally rediscovered in the early 20th century. Written in view of Mount Greylock at his Arrowhead farmhouse in Pittsfield, it places Melville amongst a prestigious host of literary figures to emerge from the Berkshire area.
Norman Rockwell is one of the most popular American artists of the 20th century and a beloved local hero of the Berkshires. In all, he painted over 2,000 illustrations for stories, advertising campaigns, posters and calendars, but his greatest legacy is his 47-year contribution to the covers of the Saturday Evening Post, which reached a larger audience than any other artist in history. A great number of his works can be viewed at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, where Mr. Rockwell resided for twenty-five years.
Melville Image courtesy of The Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield, MA.
Robyn Van En Image © Clemens Kalischer.
Mahican Indian in Stockbridge Militia :
Captain Johann Ewald Diary, Volume II
Joseph P. Tustin Papers
Special Collections, Harvey A. Andruss Library
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
Norman Rockwell Image © Clemens Kalischer.
Norman Rockwell's name and likeness are licensed by
The Norman Rockwell Estate Licensing Company, Niles, IL.
W.E.B. Du Bois:
W.E.B. Du Bois Papers, MS 312, Special Collections and University Archives,
W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.