The Gritty Berkshires: A Working Class History



12:00 pm- 1:30 pm


6/4, 6/11, 6/18, 6/25

Four Sessions

This course will be offered online via the free, easy-to-use Zoom program.

The industrial history of the Berkshires (“America’s Premier Cultural Resort”) is often overlooked and understudied. This course will focus on northern Berkshire County, where immigrant workers dug a nearly five mile long tunnel through the Hoosac Range, labored in the region’s shoe shops and cotton mills, and produced components for the largest capacitor company in the world. With de-industrialization, the “creative economy” was to be the new engine of economic development. How have workers responded to the developing service/tourist economy and what has it meant for the region? Through a variety of sources, including photos, union archives, and oral histories, we will bring to light a working class history of the area. Click here for more information:

    Maynard Seider is the author of The Gritty Berkshires: A People's History from the Hoosac Tunnel to Mass MoCA, and an Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, where he taught from 1978-2010.  He has spent his retirement working on his first documentary, “Farewell to Factory Towns?” The video chronicles North Adams’ struggle to build a viable economy after its major economic base disappeared, and asks if art is the answer.

    Documentary Link:

    Suggested Readings:

    Slavery in the Berkshires:,548531

    Lue Gim Gong: and

    Rene Ouellette: Rene Ouellette 6-9-90.pdf

    Chapter 3 of The Gritty Berkshires: Gritty Berkshires, CH 3.pdf

    For Thursday 6/11, please read the following from The Gritty Berkshires:

    Gritty Berkshires, CH 9.pdf

    Gritty Berkshires, CH 10.pdf

    Gritty Berkshires, CH 11.pdf

    Please also refer to FDR's speech on the second bill of rights:

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    OLLI: the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College
    Partners in education with Williams College, Bard College at Simon's Rock and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

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