Waldo Jeff Oral History
Scope and Contents
In Part 1 of this interview, Waldo Jeff talks of his youth and growing up in the La Fete housing project in segregated New Orleans during the 1940s, and the successful Black professionals who lived there and came to dominate their industries; his education history and his experience as a college athlete on a football scholarship at Colorado State University, learning to work effectively across racial lines, majoring in Physical Education and training to be a college football coach; the post-graduate change to studying social work at Atlanta University and the London School of Economics; his social and professional connections to major civil rights organizations like the National Group of the Congress of Racial Equality in the early 1960s as a student in Atlanta; his work with John Lewis and student activists planning the first and second Selma Marches; living in London and befriending Black classmates from all over the British Empire in the International Social Welfare program. In addition, Waldo Jeff talks in detail about the SEEK program: its development and history within CUNY; his initial impressions of the SEEK program at Queens College as a counselor when it was first instituted in 1967; the social-political environment of Queens in relation to other boroughs; the variety of students enrolled in SEEK and the challenges of students of color within academia; the SEEK goal to change the environment and change the expectations for “non-traditional” students; the SEEK rebellion in the late 1960s seeking control and major changes to the program; and the creation of the campus daycare in the early 1970s in response to SEEK student needs.
In Part 2, Jeff further discusses the administrative shake-up at SEEK with the induction of Bill Sales as the director of the SEEK program; the effectiveness of Bill Sales as director and Waldo Jeff’s experience working with him; adversarial attitudes and clashing education philosophies of students and faculty at Queens College; the intersection of SEEK with social movements of the late 1960s; racial discrimination within New York City school systems broadly; fears of the SEEK program shutting down; his experiences in his last year as a Queens College SEEK counselor and taking a leave of absence to go into the private sector; his feelings after being denied the ability to return to Queens as a SEEK counselor; the 1975 recession and its effect on his business; and memories of other notable SEEK faculty members and his relationships with them.
- 2019-07-25 - 2019-08-20
- Mondesir, Obden (Interviewer, Person)
This oral history is open for research. Media files and transcript can be viewed and/or requested through the Queens Memory Project on Aviary: https://queenslibrary.aviaryplatform.com/collections/150/collection_resources/39649. For help using the site, contact QC.Archives@qc.cuny.edu.
Interview shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). Users are free to share or adapt the material for non-commercial purposes, as long as they meet the terms of the license. See license details at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/.
Biographical / Historical
Waldo Jeff was born in 1940 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Delma Jeff, a housewife, and Morris Jeff, the first Black director of the New Orleans Recreation Department. After finishing his master’s degree in social work at Atlanta University and completing a fellowship at the London School of Economics, he joined the Queens College SEEK program as a counselor in 1967, one year after it was founded. In addition to being involved with the national civil rights movement across several states and organizations (Louisiana, Georgia, New York), he advised and advocated for students of color in academia, helping to open the second college campus daycare in the country in the 1970s. After leaving Queens College in 1975, he later went into private business.
2 Digital Files ; Duration: Part 1, 01:48:08; Part 2, 01:20:47; total 03:08:55.
21 Megabytes ; Part 1: 12 MB; Part 2: 9 MB
Language of Materials
This oral history was conducted by Obden Modesir (interviewer) and Waldo Jeff (interviewee) in July and August 2019. In this interview, Waldo Jeff talks about his time as one of the first counselors of Queens College's SEEK program, his path to New York City in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and his involvelment in civil rights movements in both the Deep South and the North.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated to Queens College and Queens Public Library by Obden Mondesir and Waldo Jeff in July, 2019.
Two MP3 files totaling 21 MB and 3 hours 8 minutes in duration.
Oral history conducted as part of the Queens Memory Project (http://queensmemory.org), a collaborative program of the Queens Public Library and Queens College to collect stories, images, and other evidence of life in the borough of Queens. This interview was part of the SEEK History Project.
- Caitlin Colban-Waldron
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