The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Olivia Ekeh

Headshot of Olivia EkehPh.D. Candidate, W.E.B. Du Bois Department in Afro-American Studies

I was born and raised in Worcester, MA. My father is from Nigeria and is from the Igbo ethnic group and my mother has Gullah/Geechee ancestry from her mother's side of the family. Inheriting these two similar and yet distinct backgrounds laid the foundation for my interests in history. As a child I would listen to older relatives tell stories about our family. As I got older my ability to place my relative's stories in the context of the history I was learning in school strengthened my love for history. While my love for history grew I also grew frustrated with the fact that the history I learned from my family was not seen as significant to include in the public school history curriculum. Then and there I made it my goal to study Black history and share that knowledge however I could. For my history seminar on Urban America, I decided to write a paper on the Black neighborhood of my hometown, which was ultimately torn down as a part of "urban renewal." For my paper I relied on mostly pre-recorded testimonials and interviews to learn exactly how self sufficient this neighborhood was. Unbeknownst to me, I had an interest in public history given my interest in oral history. When I began my doctorate in the Afro-Am department, my first year advisor Dr. Morrison suggested I look in to the public history certificate given my particular set of interests. I chose to move forward with the certificate because my research has moved me into the arena of memory studies. Given there is not much work done on the memory of Black Americans of the mid 20th century, I anticipate this program will afford me a foundation that will ensure I have all the tools necessary to conduct my research.