Doug Clifford’s “Return to Vietnam”: Photographs document a Vietnam War veteran’s trip to Hanoi in 1988

Black-and-white photo of a woman farmer with a man and young child

Woman Farmer in Dalat Agricultural Region, 1988

Author: Shay Park, Archives Assistant

In 1988, educator, photographer, and UMass Boston alumnus Doug Clifford traveled to Vietnam with his wife. It was not Clifford’s first time to Vietnam, however. He served as an aerial reconnaissance film-lab technician during the Vietnam War—in other words, a photographer, who was trained by the United States Air Force along with other military cameramen to photograph the war. Reflecting on his first impressions of Vietnam, Clifford experienced “a sharp contrast” with the images he had seen in the U.S. media, which he understood to be invested in “how we could identify with American GIs, and how without substance or context were the Vietnamese” (1). Clifford saw this as one version of reality, with the other being “the reality of Vietnam” populated by “not just soldiers, VC and ARVN, but schoolchildren, farmers, merchants, and the countless others who worked at the bases”:

I tried to present Vietnam as a place where people lived, worked, went to school, and struggled with their lives, in spite of the war…. I wanted to take pictures of little children looking like children; I wanted the landscape to be shown for its beauty: the tropical sunsets were spectacular and with the monsoon came every shade of green, from rice stalks to the grass on the hills; and on some days the Central Highlands rose up through the low cloud cover like a panorama in a Chinese screen painting (1).

Black-and-white photo of two boys posing in a field in front of a woman and water buffalo

Two Young Boys Poised Happily While Older Woman Tended to Water Buffalo, 1988

Though that is how Clifford described the photographs he took while stationed at Phu Cat Air Base from 1968 to 1969, that perspective of Vietnam and its people likely influenced the photographs he took on his return trip in 1988. These photographs, held in the Healey Library’s University Archives and Special Collections department, were originally exhibited and held by the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences at UMass Boston. There are fifteen black-and-white photographs, and almost all feature human subjects, often children, many with their faces turned towards the camera. View the finding aid for this photograph collection.

Woman sits on a sidewalk and people ride bicycles in front of the Central Bank

Center of Hanoi on a Busy Weekend in Front of the Central Bank, 1988

In “Woman Farmer in Dalat Agricultural Region” a woman stands in front of harvested root vegetables. Her mouth is open and smiling, as if she is speaking to someone just out of the frame. Behind her stands a small child staring directly into the lens. The pattern of the child’s sweater is cheerful even in black and white. Other photographs are less candid but still lively. The children in “Two Young Boys Poised Happily While Older Woman Tended to Water Buffalo” are captured in close-up making faces at the camera. One smiles widely and the other scowls playfully. In the background and out of focus are the older woman and water buffalo, both turned away from the camera and the boys’ antics.

“Center of Hanoi on a Busy Weekend in Front of the Central Bank” shows a different scene, an urban street outside the State Bank of Vietnam in Hanoi. The image is framed by the sidewalk below and the boughs of a tree hanging above. Taken from behind a person crouched on the sidewalk, one can see bicycles crossing back and forth across the frame. A bus is visible behind the trees that line the front of the bank. A portrait of Ho Chí Minh overlooks the people moving about their day.

Two women sit with a guitar and a travel bag

Pleiku Air Base, 1988

Two of the most striking photographs in the collection—“Pleiku Air Base” and “Rice Farming, near Phu Cat”—may not have been taken during his 1988 trip but were acquired together with the other photographs. In “Pleiku Air Base,” two women sit on a short wooden barrier, both dressed in fashionable camouflage print. One woman holds magazines in both hands and appears to be talking to someone out of frame, while the other looks down with a serious expression, playing a worn-looking guitar covered in tape. Pleiku Air Base was used by the United States Army during the Vietnam War but in 1975 was seized by the Vietnam People’s Army and then abandoned. Eventually it was developed into the Pleiku Airport for civilians. “Rice Farming, near Phu Cat” shows rice farmers miniaturized by the surrounding rice paddy. Unlike many of the other photographs in the collection, the environment dominates the frame. The expansive landscape makes it difficult to immediately perceive depth; only the farmers and the trees mark the relative distances.

Four people work in a rice field

Rice Farming, near Phu Cat, 1988

Following the Vietnam War, Clifford returned to the U.S. and enrolled in classes at UMass Boston, including a few photography courses. Clifford’s work has been published in a variety of places, including student newspapers and The Vietnam Experience, a book series on the Vietnam War published by Time Life. Clifford was also an educator, beginning as a tutor in the Veterans Program at UMass Boston and retiring as an English professor at Bunker Hill Community College. In 2014, Clifford participated in a video interview about his time as a UMass Boston student for the UMass Boston Mass. Memories Road Show. In 2016, the Walter Grossmann Gallery in Healey Library at UMass Boston hosted an exhibit titled “Cuba Photographs, December 2015” that featured thirty photographs from Clifford’s trip to Cuba just six months after the United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations. For Doug Clifford’s full remarks on his experiences as a photographer during the Vietnam War, visit his profile on the National Veterans Art Museum Collection Online.


References and further reading

1. “Douglas Clifford.” National Veterans Art Museum Collection Online, https://collection.nvam.org/ index.php?artist=Clifford%2C+Douglas.

2. Doug Clifford at the UMass Boston Mass. Memories Road Show: Video Interview. UMass Boston Mass. Memories Road Show collection. University Archives and Special Collections, Joseph P. Healey Library, University of Massachusetts Boston, https://openarchives.umb.edu/digital/collection/p15774coll6/id/8384/rec/3.

3. Elder, Andrew. “Photographs by Doug Clifford show Cuba in December 2015, six months after restored diplomatic relations with the U.S.” Open Archives News. University Archives and Special Collections, Joseph P. Healey Library, University of Massachusetts Boston, 30 November, 2016, https://blogs.umb.edu/archives/2016/11/30/photographs-by-Doug-clifford-show-cuba-in-december-2015-six-months-after-restored-diplomatic-relations-with-the-u-s.

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Robert C. Hayden Interviews the “Knights of the Rail”: An Oral History of Black American Railroad Workers in Boston

A page from the Knights of the Rail exhibit guide with a photo of George Pullman

A page from the “Knights of the Rail” exhibit guide, which tells the history leading up to the formation of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

Author: Shay Park, Archives Assistant

At Boston’s Back Bay Station, there is a statue and a permanent exhibit commemorating civil rights and labor organizer A. Philip Randolph. Randolph’s activism began in the early twentieth century and continued through the Civil Rights Era. Notably, he was a co-organizer of the March on Washington on August 23, 1963, one of the largest political rallies in history. He also organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a union for railroad porters of the Pullman Car Company, in 1925. The Brotherhood’s Boston members are the focus of the Back Bay exhibit, titled “Knights of the Rail.” The exhibit takes the form of six porcelain panels mounted on walls inside the station.

Within our Special Collections are the exhibit guide and transcripts of interviews of retired Pullman employees and former Brotherhood members. Browse digitized copies of those materials and the finding aid for the collection. The interviews were conducted by historian Robert C. Hayden as part of the research process for the exhibit. The guide contains reproductions of each of the panels, as well as text written by the late historian and labor activist Dr. Jim Green that recounts the history of the Pullman porters leading up to the formation of the Brotherhood and the gains they made under Randolph’s leadership.

Though the statue, exhibit, and exhibit guide highlight the immense contributions of A. Philip Randolph through the Brotherhood, the interviews also provide rich insight into the lives of the railroad workers. Following the Civil War, there was a mass migration of newly freed Black Americans to northern cities. Job prospects were limited due to segregation and racism, which meant that the Black workforce quickly became one that was easily exploited as cheap labor, and Black workers were forced into a finite range of job positions. 

The Pullman Car Company, which had a virtual monopoly on the manufacture and operation of sleeper rail cars, took advantage of these circumstances by hiring an almost exclusively Black staff, from cooks to waiters to cleaners to porters. Wages were low and working conditions were poor, but it presented an opportunity to make a living for many who had few other choices. By the 1920s, the Pullman Company was the largest employer of Black labor in the United States.

Pullman porters made multiple failed attempts to organize before approaching A. Philip Randolph for his help. Under his leadership, the Brotherhood finally formed, with demands such as a 240-hour work month and a minimum monthly wage of $150. However, it wasn’t until more than a decade later in 1937 that the Pullman Company recognized the Brotherhood after a long battle attempting to bust the union. Randolph successfully negotiated many of their demands, and their victory made them the first national Black union to bargain effectively with a major company. 

Exhibit guide page with photos and quotes from the Pullman Porters interviews

The “Knights of the Rail” exhibit guide contains reproductions of the panels mounted at Back Bay Station. Each panel includes photographs and quotes from the interviews conducted by historian Robert C. Hayden.

The interviews showcase the variety of jobs employees on Pullman cars held. While the Brotherhood unionized the Pullman porters, there were other workers such as those in the dining cars who were not organized until later. The interviews provide details of daily life on the railroads, experienced through long hours on trips that took them away from home. Many appreciated the opportunity to travel and the steady job, while lamenting the fact that supporting their loved ones meant spending long periods of time away. Some recounted kind or reasonable supervisors, though they still experienced discrimination—if not from their employers then from the patrons they served. Others described the frequent lack of formal training, with some learning on the job with little to no former experience, whether it was as a cook or as an engine repair person. Overall, in spite of grievances or hardships, most stated that they enjoyed their jobs.

Along with diversity in job types, the workers themselves had diverse life experiences. The majority of the workers interviewed moved to the Boston area from Southern states, but Fidel S. Barboza, who worked first as a cook and then as a porter until he was laid off in 1957, was an immigrant from Mexico. Though he struggled because he did not speak English at first, he was considered a good worker and promoted several times. Frances E. Rideout, one of two women interviewed, described her time as a waitress. When she began working in the 1930s, it was rare for a woman to work on railroads, but over the course of her nearly four decades on Pullman cars, she did experience working with an all-woman crew.

Interviewer Robert C. Hayden and Dr. Jim Green, author of the exhibit guide, wrote in a joint article about the interviews that they “show that Randolph’s movement was composed of rank-and-file workers of many political persuasions, people who also deserve recognition.” They foreground the individual lives of those for whom the Brotherhood and later union organizations advocated. It provides these workers the ability to tell their own stories and ensure their personal experiences are included in the history of the larger movement.

Those who are interested in other relevant holdings in our University Archives and Special Collection may consult the James Green papers. Dr. Green taught history and labor studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, creating and then directing its Public History graduate program. His papers cover nearly fifty years of research and activism among other kinds of materials and activities. Dr. Green also provided a video interview for the UMass Boston Mass. Memories Road Show on May 2, 2014, describing the activism he took part in on UMass Boston’s campus over the years.


References and further reading

“Pullman Porters Helped Build Black Middle Class.” NPR, 7 May 2009, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103880184

Green, James R. and Robert C. Hayden. “A. Philip Randolph and Boston’s African-American Railroad Worker.” Trotter Review, vol. 6, no. 2, 1992, 20-23. Internet Archive. Web. https://archive.org/details/trotterreview62willi/page/20/mode/2up.

McWatt, Arthur C. “‘A Greater Victory’: The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in St. Paul.” Minnesota History, vol. 55, no. 5, 1997, 202–216.

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Documenting the UMass Boston Community’s Response to COVID-19

University Archives and Special Collections at UMass Boston is interested in collecting the personal stories, photographs, videos, recordings, and other materials that reflect your experiences during the COVID-19 crisis.

How has life changed for you as a student, as a staff member, or as a member of the faculty? How are you staying connected to the people in your life and to others at UMass Boston during this period of social/physical distancing? What do you want people in the years to come to understand or know about this time period? In addition to the experiences of students, faculty, and staff, we want to hear from alumni and members of the larger UMass Boston community as well.

Examples of contributions to this project include (but are not limited to):

  • A reflective essay on your experience that you wrote for a class
  • Curricular materials that you created for a class that you are now teaching online
  • A photograph of your at-home workspace
  • An audio or video recording of an interview conducted with a family member
  • An original work of art
  • A poem or short story
  • A link to a blog post or social media content that you created

Contribute to the project here.

If you have any questions about this project, please email library.archives@umb.edu.

Take care, stay safe, and we hope to see you on campus again very soon.


Due to COVID-19, the Healey Library building and the Archives Research Room will be closed until further notice. University Archives and Special Collections staff are working remotely, however, and are available to help. Click here for updates and additional information.

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Standing Our Ground and Transforming a City: Event and collecting area document history of housing and community activism in Boston

University Archives and Special Collections in the Healey Library at UMass Boston is publishing the below essay, written by Judy Branfman around 1989, to both announce the launch of new digital collection area and to promote Transforming a City: Honoring Boston’s Visionaries, an event being held on Saturday, October 19, that will bring people together from all over Boston to celebrate the lives and legacy of community activists Mel King and Chuck Turner.

Screenshot from the title screen for the Standing Our Ground slideshow

View the “Standing Our Ground” slideshow, narrative, and transcription.

 

The new digital collection area is inspired by (and named after) Standing Our Ground, the important slideshow that was directed by filmmaker Judy Branfman and produced by Branfman and UMass Boston Professor Emerita Marie Kennedy to explore Boston’s rich and creative history of neighborhood struggles over land control and development, and the growth of empowerment and local control. The only item in the collection at this point is the Standing Our Ground film, but we expect to post more materials to the site soon, including interviews, videos of public meetings, and other recordings from the 1970s and 1980s related to Tent City activism in Boston’s South End. Explore this digital collection area and view Standing Our Ground.

University Archives and Special Collections holds a range of materials that help to document the history of housing, community development, and land use and planning activism in Boston. This digital collection will provide researchers and community members with access to unique archival materials related to this history.



Standing Our Ground: Community Media and the History of Neighborhood Control of Development in Boston

Guest essay by Judy Branfman
Note: This essay about Standing Our Ground and Branfman’s work with the Coalition for Community Control of Development was originally written around 1989.

“You’ve got to fight or you don’t get anywhere. If you fight for something you believe is right, then fight for it! Don’t sit back and say, ‘Oh, I could have done it, but now it’s too late.’ You gotta do it. You can win or you can lose, but at least you tried.”
-Anna DeFronzo, East Boston community activist

Screenshot from the title screen for the Standing Our Ground slideshow

View the “Standing Our Ground” slideshow, narrative, and transcription.

For thousands of Boston residents – especially East Boston residents – Anna DeFronzo’s fighting spirit and history of activism have been an inspiration since the early 1960s (Anna DeFronzo died in 1998). At the same time that Anna and her neighbors were struggling to stop Logan Airport’s expansion into their East Boston neighborhoods, similar struggles were taking place in other parts of Boston, particularly where Urban Renewal plans were taking a heavy toll. In those areas as well, particularly the South End area, committed activists and creative struggles evolved and broke new ground for people in communities seeking to have some control in shaping their lives and surroundings.

The same issues that in the 1960s and ‘70s brought whole communities into the streets and meeting rooms – demolition of neighborhoods and destruction of communities, racism, the pursuit of community-based development, etc. – have continued, often in more sophisticated forms, to be crucial and largely unresolved issues for Boston residents. But through the years, activists from Boston’s many and extremely diverse neighborhoods have built on each other’s work. And over the last couple of years neighborhood activists and groups have begun to come together to share their knowledge and struggles – and attempt to develop strategies for working together on common issues. The Coalition for Community Control of Development (CCCD) is one outcome of this coming together – a growing coalition of over 25 neighborhood organizations from across the city. CCCD is working on both legislative and grassroots initiatives in order to strengthen the voices of Boston’s neighborhoods.

I became involved with CCCD in 1988 because of my interest in working with that broad coalition working to address community development issues. My experience working in the neighborhood group in my isolated and gentrifying area taught me that we could never fully accomplish our goals working on our own in deeply divided and politicized Boston. Also as an activist artist and educator, I had a strong interest in developing some kind of artistic collaboration that could further the community control work.

What emerged after several discussions was the idea of developing a slide show that would look at the past and present of the struggle for community control of development, drawing on the voices and stories of activists who had helped shape those struggles.

The project in part emerged out of – and merged with – a series of neighborhood oral histories being collected by Rainbow Coalition members and urban planner Marie Kennedy for a large historical exhibition honoring South End activist Mel King on his 60th birthday. The slide show process began with a letter that was sent out to more than 500 neighborhood groups and activists inviting their participation – and to date has involved artists with a variety of skills, planners, historians, educators, activists, and donations of numerous services.

Visual images are powerful and evocative tools, although they are often left behind by organizers and educators, often for understandable reasons. In the case of “Standing Our Ground,” the real strength, along with the organizing process itself, lies in the images combined with stories heard in the activists’ own voices.

The goals of the project have been: to develop a process, educational in itself, which would bring people together to share their stories (15 voices are heard in the show) and participate in developing the slide show; to pass on a history that in reality is little known – and that can be seen within the context of growing community empowerment; and to develop an educational program that raises relevant questions for use by CCCD and other groups and institutions. Another hope was to try and place land control struggles – and the idea of community development – within the realm of people’s everyday experience, and try and look at the relationship between the two.

As Chuck Turner, Director of the Center for Community Action in Roxbury, says in “Standing Our Ground,” “The question is, how does community development enhance human development? Does the building of a new structure necessarily contribute to people’s feeling a renewed confidence in their own ability and creative potential and future in their neighborhood?”

Note: This essay about Standing Our Ground and Branfman’s work with the Coalition for Community Control of Development was originally written around 1989.


 

Image of Mel King and Chuck Turner, used for eventLearn more about Transforming a City: Honoring Boston’s Visionaries, an event being held on Saturday, October 19, that will bring people together from all over Boston to celebrate the lives and legacy of Mel King and Chuck Turner. Reserve tickets here.



About Judy Branfman

Judy Branfman, Research Affiliate with the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, is a documentary filmmaker, activist, and independent scholar based in Los Angeles. She is working on a documentary, The Land of Orange Groves & Jails, and book on the precedent-setting court case, Stromberg v California. Since 1980 Judy has worked with non-profit organizations, cultural projects, labor unions, and municipalities doing outreach and education, media, and project development and coordination. She has taught Los Angeles history courses at UCLA – and produced large community-based events focusing on LA’s multi-ethnic, labor history.



University Archives and Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives and Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives and Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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UMass Boston Interim Dean of Libraries Joanne Riley receives 2019 Bay State Legacy Award

Portrait photograph of Joanne RileyUniversity Archives & Special Collections in the Healey Library is so proud to announce that the Massachusetts History Alliance‘s 2019 Bay State Legacy Award is being presented to our colleague Joanne Riley, Interim Dean of University Libraries at UMass Boston, for her dedication to preserving and interpreting Massachusetts history through her early and ground-breaking involvement in digital humanities work. The Bay State Legacy Award goes to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the interpretation and presentation of Massachusetts history.

Joanne’s efforts to preserve Massachusetts history began in 1998 when she joined the Massachusetts Studies Project, founded by her mentor Barbara (Bobby) Robinson to empower educators to help their students situate themselves within their local communities. Joanne went on to develop the Massachusetts Studies Network in 2007, which provided an “online social network specifically for those who are involved in local studies in Massachusetts” – several years before platforms like Facebook became widely used by the general public.

Joanne is most-frequently associated with the Mass. Memories Road Show, an event-based public history project she launched in 2004 that digitizes family photos and memories shared by the people of Massachusetts. The Road Show, which has been recognized as a trailblazer in participatory and community archiving, has preserved 11,000 photographs and stories from more than 75 Massachusetts communities and has engaged hundreds of volunteers and contributors across the Commonwealth.

Currently, Joanne leads the 1919 Boston Police Strike Project, working with the Boston Police Department Archives, UMass Boston colleagues and community volunteers to research the 1,100+ policemen who participated in that historic event. Joanne is training volunteers to research the strikers’ lives and is developing a publicly-accessible database to store and share the researched data. She co-developed a free, online course on how to conduct accurate biographical research using open resources, and for the strike’s centennial this year, she is spearheading the coordination of a community celebration honoring the strikers, their descendants, and the project volunteers.

As University Archivist and Curator of Special Collections at UMass Boston (2011-2017), Joanne oversaw unprecedented growth of the department, bolstering the department’s mission to document the social and cultural history of Boston. In her current role as Interim Dean of University Libraries, she serves as a teacher, mentor, and leader to 25+ staff.

The award will be formally presented on Monday, June 24 at the Massachusetts History Conference at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. Click here to learn more about the conference.

Massachusetts History Alliance Logo

Learn more about the Massachusetts History Alliance.

About the Bay State Legacy Award

For many years, the Bay State Historical League presented the John F. Ayer Award in recognition of an individual’s contributions to the interpretation and presentation of Massachusetts history. After 101 years of service, the BSHL dissolved in 2005, at which time the Massachusetts History Conference planning committee decided to continue this recognition of an individual’s contribution to Massachusetts history by inaugurating the Bay State Legacy Award.

 

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