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view of wistariahurst, a three story victorian mansion, yellow with white trim and slate roof, as seen from the corner of Beech and Cabot St in Holyoke

A Letter from the Director

To Our Community:

This past week people around the world paid collective witness to brutality and violence rooted deep in the racism and oppression of our country’s past. It is a week when I believe many fellow historians are, like I am, being reminded of just how profoundly we have failed as a profession to adequately protect the legacies of the activists and freedom fighters who achieved hard-won recognition of Civil and Human rights throughout the history of The United States.

Last week we also witnessed the beginning of what could be a new chapter in Holyoke history, as a peaceful protest, organized and led by women of color, drew over 1,000 people to march from City Hall to the police station to articulate demands and hopes for a better Holyoke. Wistariahurst stands in support of the world that these, and protesters across the nation, are striving to create.

Wistariahurst denounces racism in all of its forms. We denounce the white supremacy that pervades our systems. We stand with those who fight for the safety, security, and rights of Black people in this country. We mourn the recent stolen futures of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and Nina Pop along with all others who have been killed because of the color of their skin.

Built of wealth generated on the backs of immigrant mill labor; preserved in the tradition of “Great Man” historic homes, which have played a prominent role in glorifying wealth and whiteness in our national narrative; and existing in modern times as a symbol of privilege and exclusion, Wistariahurst has a long and troubled lineage with which to grapple.

As an institution, we are constantly learning, failing, trying, and sometimes succeeding to pull this site into the realm of equity, accountability, and anti-racism. Those goals are explicit and fore-fronted in our plans, in our budgets and fundraising, and in every aspect of our efforts. We are not yet close to being the institution that we strive to be, and recent events this month have reminded us that we cannot slow down or lose focus.

During this time of closure we will not only be working to update the building, but I pledge to use this time to reflect on our organizational systems, practices, and structure in order to emerge on the other side of the pandemic an organization which more wholly embodies the values that are currently being defended in our streets.

Kate Preissler
Director, Wistariahurst

For a way to directly support the Black members of this community as they reclaim their place in the historical narrative of Holyoke, please consider a one-time or recurring donation to the work of Scholar and Curator Erika Slocumb via the Black Holyoke Patreon*

*Note that all proceeds from the Black Holyoke Patreon directly support Erika as an independent scholar and are separate from Wistariahurst organization and funds.

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