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During the first year of Recovering New England’s Voices four full-time scholars dedicated to researching historically marginalized peoples uncovered more than 580 previously unknown stories through extensive research at regional archives and libraries, oral histories, community outreach, and interviews with other researchers and volunteers in our communities.
These recovered voices include 150 domestic service workers, 101 immigrants, sixty-four enslaved people, thirty-five free people of color, and others. The stories range from information about enslaved people associated with our historic sites, domestic staff and immigrant workers who kept the properties running, Indigenous peoples’ histories across the region, prison laborers’ contributions to real estate development, and women’s roles in and beyond the household. Through this work, many of the unnamed have been named and many myths have been debunked.
The year-one scholars’ extensive research reports and more than 2,000 images from primary sources laid the critical foundation for more in-depth exploration to tell the full stories associated with our historic sites.
In September 2022, Recovering New England’s Voices scholar Erika Slocumb joined the Historic New England Study Center staff to carry this work forward. Her work is building on the research conducted by our first-year scholars, with a focus on the stories of free Black and enslaved individuals. She is working closely with Historic New England colleagues and community sources to further research these themes and generate new historic site experiences and public programs based on her findings.
Slocumb is a Ph.D. candidate in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro American Studies at the University of Massachusetts and has worked on uncovering the history of Black people in Holyoke, Massachusetts, in conjunction with the Holyoke community and the Wistariahurst Museum. Her research “Reliquary of Blackness,” focuses on the use of archival research, oral histories, and community storytelling to retell, reshape, and reclaim history in spaces where Black stories have been obscured, specifically reclaiming the narratives of Blackness in museums and other repositories of history and culture. She continues to work toward collecting histories and artifacts of the Black community.
Discover some of the stories uncovered by our first-year scholars in the Summer 2022 issue of Historic New England magazine.
Media Contact: Susanna Crampton, [email protected]