AFSC Vietnam Curriculum Project: Children’s drawings depict life in 1960s Vietnam

Author: Alyssa Tkach, Archives Assistant

Children's drawing: two men shake hands with soldiers and a plane in the background

“Tong Thong Di Honolulu (The President Goes to Honolulu),” created by Le hoang Cuong in 1966 in Cholon, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

University Archives and Special Collections holds a collection of eighteen children’s drawings that document life in Vietnam in the 1960s. The drawings were made possible by various world peace organizations and activists, including the American Friends Service Committee, the Committee of Responsibility, and Le van Khoa. 

Child's drawing of Batman standing on grass with a building in the background

“Batman,” created by Vo Phuc Hai in 1966 in Cholon, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

These drawings were created by Vietnamese children around 1966 as resource materials for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The AFSC is a Quaker organization that was formed in 1917 by the Religious Society of Friends in order to aid civilians who were affected by World War I. In the 1960s, they helped build anti-war coalitions to challenge U.S. policy in Vietnam (1). Today, they continue to work to improve racial relations around the globe, advocating for social justice and peace. 

Child's drawing: a house with clouds and a tree

“Canh Nha Que (Country Scene),” created by Nguyen Huu Cuong in 1966 in Thi Nghe, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

Le van Khoa is a music composer, photographer, and educator who arrived in the United States from Vietnam in May 1975 as a war refugee (2). He was born to a working-class family on June 10, 1933, in Can-Tho, a city in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. As a child, Le van Khoa taught himself how to read and play music, which ultimately led him to win an award at age nineteen for two songs he had composed and submitted to a national music contest (2).

Child's drawing: a woman standing and a person rowing a boat

“Chinh Phu (Soldier’s Wife),” created by Vu thi Bich Tram in 1966 in Gia Dinh, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

Le van Khoa’s success earned him a job as a host for a children’s television show, World of Children (2). In addition to his passion for music, Le van Khoa is a renowned photographer who co-founded the Artistic Photography Association of Vietnam and published three books (3). The Special Collections and University Archives department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is home to a small collection of his photographs, which focus on life in Vietnam (3). The drawings were submitted to a contest that Le van Khoa sponsored in connection with World of Children, and he later donated the drawings to the Committee of Responsibility in an effort to help raise funds for Vietnam (4). 

Child's drawing: a smiling cat holding an umbrella in the rain

“Con Meo Xach O (Cat With Umbrella),” created by Ta thai Duong in 1966 in Cholon, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

The Committee of Responsibility (COR) was formed in 1966 by medical personnel, scientists, religious leaders, and other conscious citizens to assist Vietnamese children under the age of sixteen. The Committee provided medical assistance by bringing children to the United States for various treatments and rehabilitation. Around 100 children were treated by this program, and after completing their treatment, nearly all of them returned to Vietnam (5).

These images range from lighthearted cartoon characters and nature scenes to emotional depictions of soldiers and war. The drawings contextualize the impact of the Vietnam War from a Vietnamese perspective; researchers who study the residual effects of war on civilians and children will find this collection to be particularly valuable.


References and further reading

1. “Vietnam Summer,” American Friends Service Committee, accessed April 23, 2020, https://www.afsc.org/vietnamsummer.

2. “Le Van Khoa Collection,” UMass Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives, accessed April 23, 2020, http://findingaids.library.umass.edu/ead/mums170.

3. “Le Van Khoa Photograph Collection,” UMass Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives, accessed April 23, 2020, http://scua.library.umass.edu/umarmot/vietnam/.

4. “American Friends Service Committee, Vietnam Curriculum Project: children’s drawings and resource materials, 1954-1977, bulk 1963-1976,” UMass Boston Digital Collections, Joseph P. Healey Library, accessed April 23, 2020, https://openarchives.umb.edu/digital/collection/p15774coll8/id/135/rec/1.

5. “Committee of Responsibility Records, 1966-1978,” Swarthmore College Peace Collection, last modified February 9, 2018, https://www.swarthmore.edu/library/peace/DG151-175/DG173COR.htm.

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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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National Participatory Archiving Survey Results Available Now!

Map of United States showing which states responded to the surveyDuring summer 2019, University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) in the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston conducted a survey about participatory archiving, or the process of collecting and preserving materials in partnership with community members. The results of the survey will inform the development of an online resource to guide libraries of all kinds and sizes through the process of hosting a participatory archiving event. The project is inspired by UASC’s Mass. Memories Road Show program and made possible by a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). 

The survey results capture the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of libraries and other cultural organizations already doing participatory archiving events and those that are exploring the idea of hosting an event. UASC collected survey responses from 208 respondents representing 33 states and the District of Columbia: 123 libraries (public, private, university, and K-12), 46 cultural heritage organizations, and 25 government agencies, as well as other institutions. 

The survey reveals a great deal of interest in participatory archiving across the country. 

Approximately one half of the libraries surveyed already hosted a participatory archiving event. Ninety-five percent of these libraries found success in building community, engaging participants, and building collections through these types of events. To share materials gathered, libraries provided in-archive use to the public, posted them to their own digital repositories and social media, and/or shared them through a consortium website or state/regional repository. The survey revealed that many libraries are still learning how to preserve the digital assets they collect at participatory archiving events. 

A slight majority (55%) of libraries surveyed have not hosted or taken part in a participatory archiving event. More than half of these libraries rated their interest in holding such an event as very high. Most of these libraries cited community engagement and collections activities (building, diversifying, filling gaps) among their primary goals. To effectively host an event, these libraries reported the need for personnel (staff or volunteers), time, and guidance on various aspects of the participatory archiving process. 

UASC looks forward to addressing these needs and other gaps uncovered in the survey. In addition, UASC will seek feedback from survey participants on the online resource when it is launched later this year.  

The report analysis covers a range of topics including community outreach, digital aggregator repositories, and preservation practices from the perspectives of libraries. Responses from other types of cultural organizations are contained within the dataset that can be found in the appendix.

If you have questions about the survey or the IMLS-funded project, please email library.archives@umb.edu.

Click here to read the full report and to access the data set.

Click here to learn more about the grant-funded project.

About the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston

UMass Boston logoThe Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston plays a leading role in the dynamic culture of teaching and learning at Boston’s only public research university, while also supporting the campus’ commitment to urban and community engagement. University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) in the Healey Library 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. UASC is committed to working with, promoting, and assisting community archives in the Greater Boston area and beyond through facilitating cross-organization collaboration and access to informational, educational, and practical resources relevant to archival procedures and best practices. Check in with Healey Library’s news and collections through FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

Logo for the Institute of Museum and Library ServicesThe Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. They advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Their vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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