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Rachel Davis DuBois papers

Identifier: IHRC573
Papers (ca. 1917-1973) of Rachel Davis Dubois (1892- ) comprise both personal papers and organizational records and include correspondence; minutes; reports; publications; curricular materials; speeches; draft autobiography; newspaper clippings; loose photographs; scrapbooks of photographs; and various published and unpublished writings produced and received by DuBois. Also included are research files and phonograph records from "Americans All, Immigrants All" radio series for which DuBois served as consultant.


  • 1917-1974


Language of Materials



Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.


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16.5 Linear Feet


Rachel Davis DuBois was born in Clarkesboro, New Jersey, on January 25, 1892. Raised on a farm, she inherited her family's Quaker religion and a feeling for her old-stock, English-Welch ancestry. She attended Bucknell University and graduated in 1914. After graduation, she taught in the schools of Glassboro, New Jersey, until 1920. From 1920 to 1924, she was active in the peace movement. In 1922, she traveled abroad with a delegation of women headed by Jane Addams to attend the conference of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in the Netherlands. In the fall of 1923, she, along with two other women associated with the League,went to the first Peace Automobile Caravan in this country.

In 1924, two events occurred that redirected the course of her life. First, she visited a Negro school in the South, where she met Dr. George Washington Carver and felt embarrassed by her lack of knowledge on the racial question; and second, she read an article by the black historian W.E.B. DuBois (no relation), in which he argued that resolution of the problem of war rested on the eliminating the problem of race. These two experiences awakened in her the realization of her life's "concern," the improvement of racial and ethnic group relations and the development of greater appreciation for the diverse cultural strains in making up American society.

In the fall of 1924, she began teaching at the Woodbury High School, Woodbury, New Jersey, where she remained until 1929. It was at Woodbury High School that she helped to develop the assembly-program technique for improving group relations. A series of assembly programs were held over the course of each school year, each one focusing on the "contributions" of particular ethnic or racial groups in American life. Follow-up activities or lessons were held in the classroom. Finding that the curricular materials in this area were lacking or inadequate, she contacted various individuals or organizations to obtain materials or information that could be incorporated into the Woodbury curriculum. This type of endeavor, the development of curricular units on the cultural traits or history of particular groups, would become a specialty of Rachel DuBois and her associates in the years to come.

In 1929, Rachel DuBois left southern New Jersey and moved to New York City, which was to become her home or headquarters for many years, until she returned to her home in southern New Jersey. Between 1929 and 1933, Dr. DuBois initiated, or participated in, a series of curriculum experiments in intercultural education in the schools of Washington D.C.; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Englewood, New Jersey. At the same time, she continued her education at Columbia University Teachers College and at New York University, eventually receiving a doctorate in educational sociology from N.Y.U.

In January 1934, Dr. DuBois, with the sponsorship of a number of Columbia University faculty members, founded the Service Bureau for Education in Human Relations, a "clearing house" agency designed to help teachers and school administrators in setting up programs in intercultural education. She was appointed "executive secretary" of this group. With financial assistance from the American Jewish Committee and the Works Progress Administration, this agency sponsored intercultural programs in fifteen schools in the New York metropolitan area (1934-1935). In January of 1937, the Service Bureau for Education in Human Relations was invited to become the "Commission on Intercultural Education" of the Progressive Education Association. This marriage with the P.E.A was short-lived, however, ending in September of 1938, after which the original organization was revived and rechristened the Service Bureau for Intercultural Education.

During 1938-1939, the Service Bureau worked in conjunction with the United States Department of the Interior, Office of Education, to do research for an award-winning series of radio programs entitled "Americans All-Immigrants All." Dr. DuBois and Ruth Davis, also of the Service Bureau, served as consultants to the Office of Education on this project. During 1939-1940, the General Education Board, before deciding to make a commitment to the Bureau for financial support, conducted an evaluation of the activities of the Service Bureau. The report of the G.E.B was critical of an approach to intergroup relations that emphasized the contributions of individual groups. The philosophic and programmatic differences that emerged at this time led to the resignation of Dr. DuBois and other members of the Board of Directors (1939-1941) and the dismissal of others not in agreement with the dominant point of view.

In 1941, Dr. DuBois founded a new organization called the Intercultural Education Workshop to carry on her work. In 1946, this organization was incorporated and renamed the Workshop for Cultural Democracy. It remained in existence until ca. 1958. The Service Bureau, after Dr. DuBois' departure, changed its name to Bureau for Intercultural Education, and remained in existence until ca. 1954.

After 1941, a greater effort was made my Dr. DuBois and her associates to involve adults and teachers in the programs of the Workshop. A "new social invention" called the "Neighborhood Home Festival" or "Group Conversation" technique was developed, which became the stock-in-trade of the Workshop. In brief, this technique called for the gathering together of 20 to 40 individuals of diverse backgrounds and the collective recall of childhood memories touching on such universal themes as the change of seasons, work, holidays, home customs, etc. The technique was used in a number of "tension areas" of New York City to promote more amicable relations between parents of different ethnic and racial groups. The story of one such program at Public School 165 was chronicled by Dr. DuBois in her book Neighbors in Action (1950).

During the fifties and sixties, Dr. DuBois continued her efforts to promote intergroup harmony and understanding. In 1951, she was sent by the State Department to Germany to aid in the post-war reconstruction. After her return, the Workshop for Cultural Democracy focused its efforts in devising programs to train "trainers of leaders" on a nationwide basis. It also became interested in depth psychology and group techniques for bringing about interpersonal understanding in culturally homogeneous settings. After the dissolution of the Workshop, Dr. DuBois was invited by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to lead a program to lessen tensions between whites and blacks in the South.

Louis Adamic once called Rachel DuBois "a pioneer in intercultural education and relations." The description seems fitting. Her activities as teacher, author, lecturer, group and organizational leader extend over a lifetime and have earned her many commendations and notable distinction

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers of Rachel David DuBois were donated by DuBois and acquired by Rudolph J. Vecoli and Nicholas Montalto in December 1972. They were supplemented twice, in October 1973 and April 1987.
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