Berkshire NAACP, Pittsfield, MA
This summer, I worked as a Social Justice Researcher at the Berkshire County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The Berkshire branch of the NAACP, in line with the national organization’s mission and vision, works to establish justice and equity for all and eliminate race-based discrimination. The main project our team tackled this summer was researching redlining in Pittsfield in the twentieth century. Redlining is a form of housing discrimination that prevented Black households from equitable access to loans and mortgages in the mid-1900s, and one of the ramifications of this is the current wealth disparity between Black and White populations in the United States. Because a large population of Black people had migrated to Pittsfield during the mid-1900s, the Berkshire NAACP was interested in seeing whether or not housing discrimination in the Berkshires matched what was happening in other urban areas during the same time.
Each team member contributed to research and analysis by taking on a different aspect of the project. I focused on researching manuscript census records and analyzing oral histories to track Black households over time. I went through the 1900-1940 manuscript census records and recorded personal and housing information of Black residents who were living in Pittsfield during those years. After compiling that data, I created tables, charts, and graphs to display the changes in the Black population and homeownership rates in Pittsfield over time by ward. I researched oral history projects from the NAACP archives to stories about living in Pittsfield as a Black person. I also created a survey for current Black residents to share their family’s stories of living in Pittsfield during the twentieth century.
My work over this summer was closely aligned with my academic and career interests, as I am interested in public policy and how it can be used to promote racial justice. I took a class on gentrification in the spring that had originally piqued my interest in applying for this internship. Learning more about redlining through this project made me consider specializing in housing policy, and I hope to take more classes on this area of policy in the future. Working with the NAACP has reaffirmed my desire to work for nonprofits and community organizations, as I discovered my passion for doing work for organizations whose values align with my own. I enjoyed working with Pittsfield community members and building relationships with them through my work. I hope to keep in contact with them after the summer and stay updated on other projects they are working on. While my internship period has technically ended, I am continuing to work with our team as we draft a report on our findings. We presented our findings and policy recommendations in October, and I am excited to see where our project will go from here.
I would like to thank the Kraft Family and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for this wonderful opportunity for me to work with a local organization that is making a difference in the Berkshire community!