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Jacinta Wildman-Keith

June 8, 2013


Hudson, NY


Recorded by

Meral Agish

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Jacinta Keith was born in 1952 in the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao and grew up in Grenada. Following her parents’ move to the United States in 1960, she eventually emigrated, together with her two sisters and grandmother, to Brooklyn in July 1967, at the height of the Civil Rights era. She attended Cornell University and studied early Childhood development. She worked in Ithaca before moving to Hudson in the late 1970s with her husband, Staley B. Keith.

In the interview, she describes her Childhood in Grenada and education in the convent school where she frequently ran into trouble with the nuns. After growing up in vast open spaces with a diverse multicultural population, she was struck by the differences in American culture and attitudes following her move to Brooklyn.

She describes her time at Cornell, during which she spent a summer running a social service program in the Virgin Islands, and career during the early years of her marriage. She and Staley adjusted their parenting roles to their respective work schedules, made particularly difficult by the long distance from their families.

Throughout the interview she speaks at length about African-American history and culture, and particularly focuses on the past and present state of the community in Hudson. She traces historical and cultural currents from colonial times to abolition to the Civil Rights era to the modern day. Turning to her hometown, she describes how Hudson’s African-American community was struck particularly hard by the decline of the local manufacturing sector and tightening of state employment.

She reflects on the younger generation and her hopes and fears for the future. Following her husband’s death, several community members, including her daughter, Alexis, founded the Staley B. Keith Social Justice Center.

Interviewer Bio:
Meral Agish

Meral Agish is a Brooklyn-based oral historian and nonprofit consultant. She worked as Technical Assistant during the 2013 Oral History Summer School workshops and will continue to be involved in the OHSS archive. In the fall of 2013 she will begin studies at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

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This interview is hereby made available for research purposes only. For additional uses (radio and other media, music, internet), please click here to inquire about permissions.

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