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Activist and Scholar, Bill Strickland, Passes at 87

William StricklandWilliam StricklandFriends and family are mourning the death of activist and Black Studies scholar William “Bill” Strickland.

Strickland died April 10 at home in Amherst, Massachusetts, at the age of 87. The professor served 40 years as a professor in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, before retiring in 2013.

In retirement, Strickland split his time between Amherst and Ibiza, Spain, and continued to speak at conferences, symposia, and events dedicated to passing on stories, lessons, and legacies from the Black Freedom Movement to younger generations.

He was a founding member of Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity in 1964, and in 1969, was also a founding member of the Institute of the Black World in Atlanta. As a key member of the faculty in Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst, Strickland was responsible for teaching history and politics and held roles, including acting as director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Papers.

"His political and intellectual background and trajectory was quite diverse, having worked on Reverend Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign and helping to pioneer the Institute of the Black World in Atlanta," said Dr. Jamal Watson, executive editor at Diverse who had Strickland as a professor while completing his Ph.D. in Afro-American Studies at Umass Amherst.

The Boston native and graduate of Boston Latin School and Harvard University, where he majored in psychology, and also served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Strickland worked as an executive director of the Northern Student Movement, working in Mississippi for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and then as Northern Coordinator of the Party’s Congressional Challenge. He taught as a visiting lecturer in Black History at Columbia University, serving as a member of the advisory board for the television documentary series "Black Heritage," spearheaded by John Henrik Clarke.

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