In Memoriam: William Strickland, 1937-2024

William Strickland, long-time professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, passed away on April 10 at the age of 87.

Strickland’s career in higher education began in 1966 as a visiting lecturer in Black history at Columbia University in New York. He first joined the University of Massachusetts Amherst faculty in 1973 as a professor of political science in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies. He taught courses on Black politics and the civil rights movement for four decades. Upon his retirement in 2013, he donated a collection of his papers to the university’s Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives Research Center.

Outside of his career in higher education, Strickland was dedicated to advancing civil rights and political representation for Black communities. He was a friend and fellow activist to many influential Black leaders including Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Herbert Callender, Jesse Gray, John Lewis, and Bayard Rustin. Throughout his lifetime, he was a member of numerous organizations and initiatives supporting Black civil rights including the NAACP Youth Council, the Northern Student Movement, the Black Power Movement, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. In 1969, he co-founded the country’s first Black think tank, the Institute of the Black World in Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, he served as the New England coordinator for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988.

Strickland received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard University.

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