The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Erika Slocumb

Erika Slocumb was born and raised in Springfield, MA. She received her B.A. in Social Justice Education and a MS in Labor Studies from UMass Amherst before entering the PhD program in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro American Studies.  A mother, an artist, a community organizer, a world traveler and an advocate for social justice, Erika is the cofounder of the Western Mass Women’s Collective, a community organization advancing empowerment through “literacy, critical thinking, experiential knowledge, and community engagement.”  As a public historian, she has been deeply committed to the recovery and interpretation of black history in Holyoke.  With funding from Mass Humanities and the Holyoke Local Cultural Council, and in partnership with Wistariahurst (led by UMass Public History alumna Kate Preissler), Erika has undertaken a multi-year effort to gather archival materials and oral histories documenting the black past.  In 2019, her exhibit  Reliquary of Blackness: An Exhibit of Oral Histories opened at Wistariahurst; in 2020, the National Council on Public History awarded Erika a travel grant to present a poster describing that work. As a student pursuing the graduate certificate in Public History, she aims to continue that work. “It’s important to look at the histories of spaces, especially local histories,” she has written, “and ask ‘who propped up the prominent figures in this narrative?’ ‘Who is missing?’ and tell their story, let them tell their story.” Check out the UMass History Department interview with Erika at Past@Present: ‘Reliquaries of Blackness:' Documenting Holyoke’s Black Past."