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John Bracey, UMass Amherst professor, civil rights activist, dies at 81

John Bracey, one of the longest serving professors at UMass Amherst, has died. The university issued a statement saying Bracey died over the weekend at age 81.

A civil rights activist and preeminent scholar of Black history and the Black Arts Movement, Bracey arrived in Amherst in 1972. He was one of the seven original members of the school's newly established Afro-American Studies Department.

“John Bracey was one of the most beautiful minds, brilliant intellect and serious lover of freedom that you'd ever want to know,” said Amilcar Shabazz, a current professor and former chair of the department.

Shabazz said Bracey had varied intellectual interests and was a critical thinker.

"He had a wish, an ardent desire to see the world be a more just place, a freer place, a kinder place,” he said.

Funeral services for Bracey are pending, and UMass said tributes are being planned.

Kari Njiiri is a senior reporter and longtime host and producer of "Jazz Safari," a musical journey through the jazz world and beyond, broadcast Saturday nights on NEPM Radio. He's also the local host of NPR’s "All Things Considered."