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Wilodean "Debbie" Kirby interview, 2022-12-10

Identifier: rwhc_ohp_2022_006.wav

Content Description

From the Collection:

Oral history interviews recorded by students in the Real World History class at Center for Inspired Teaching.


  • Creation: 2022-12-10


Biographical / Historical

Ms. Willodean “Debbie” Kirby (née Dykes) was born in 1954 and grew up in Sylacauga, Alabama, with her parents, James and Willie-Pearl Dykes, and four younger siblings. As the oldest daughter, Ms. Kirby spent much of her youth caring for her younger siblings. After graduating from Sylacauga High School in 1971, at age 17, Ms. Kirby moved to Washington, DC, to help her aunt (her father’s youngest sister) take care of her daughter. After living with her aunt for six months, Ms. Kirby moved out on her own. She also got married at this time, at age 19, but she and her husband soon separated. Ms. Kirby had one daughter, Wakela Kirby, but her mother took her daughter back to Alabama and raised her. For most of her childhood, Ms. Kirby’s daughter would only stay with her during the summer months. In DC, Ms. Kirby worked as a data specialist. Though she never went to college, Ms. Kirby always sought to improve herself, taking additional work trainings and night classes. As her mother and father began to have health challenges, Ms. Kirby retired around 2012 and returned to Sylacauga to care for her parents at the end of their lives. She now lives in her parents’ old home and is enjoying her retirement and spending time with family.


From the Collection: 27.1 Gigabytes (DIG_0029)

From the Collection: 228 Files (DIG_0029)

Language of Materials



In this oral history interview, Ms. Willodean Kirby discusses her life and experiences moving from Sylacauga, Alabama, to Washington, D.C. Ms. Kirby talks about her upbringing and educational experiences in Sylacauga and reflects on her move to D.C. at the age of 17 after graduating from high school. She discusses her life and work in Washington, her relationship with the interviewer’s grandmother, and her return to Sylacauga to care for her parents at the end of their lives. Finally, Ms. Kirby talks about her life in Sylacauga post-retirement and spending time with her family. This oral history interview was conducted by a D.C. high school student as part of a class assignment on the Great Migration in Real World History.

Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001