African American Studies


INTERVIEWER: Dr. Brian Purnell

INTERVIEWEE: Burmadine Hinds

SUMMARY BY: Andrew O’Connell

Burmadine Hinds was born on August 1, 1939 in Valhalla, New York, but moved to Williamsbridge at an early age after her mother shipped her South to live with foster parents. Recounting her early life in Williamsbridge, Hinds talk about a visible discrepancy between dark and light skinned black as far as social matters were concerned. Hinds recalls that the hue of one’s skin within the black community often dictated what church one went to and what social clubs one joined.

Hinds nostalgically describes the Northeast Bronx of the past as a sort of heaven on Earth. Trees lined the residential streets of Williamsbridge and neighbors of different racial and ethnic backgrounds lived together in relative harmony, specifically referring to her black family residing in a predominately Italian neighborhood. She attended P.S. 21 and then Evander Childs High School on Gun Hill Road. She enrolled in college briefly, but dropped out shortly thereafter for financial reasons.

While Hinds downplays racial tensions while discussing her early life, she does recall noticeable racial discrimination in housing as she branched out on her own. Hinds tells of Blacks’ inability to rent or buy home on roads like Pelham Parkway as landlords would turn blacks down based on their voices in phone inquiries or reveal that the apartment had “already been rented” when blacks showed up in person.

After working in the insurance and healthcare fields, Hinds had an experience on the 2 train one afternoon that would change the course of her life. Political in the sense that a strong education as a child had filled her with a pride in her heritage, Hinds met a woman named Daisy George, a high ranking member in the National Council of Negro Women. George recruited Hinds to join the organization, and Hinds proved instrumental in setting up the NCNW’s chapter in Williamsbridge. In her time with the organization, Hinds has taken on a variety of roles, including parliamentarian and financial secretary.

Hinds ends her interview with a scathing critique of the way that she feels the neighborhood of Williamsbridge has deteriorated over the years. Recalling a time when she says the streets were clean and safe, Hinds now mourns the fact that the streets are not in the condition they used to be. In her own view of the problem, Hinds blames the infusion of drugs in the community as the reason for its decay, claiming that dealers and users are ruining the neighborhood.

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