This is a follow-up interview to Dr. Goldberg’s initial interview. He discusses in detail his experience in prison as a result of refusing his draft induction physical. He relates the prison conditions, various jobs, and means of keeping busy. While at Danbury prison he helped organize a black history course and a series of guest speakers from local universities, including Columbia. He spent time in three different federal prisons over the course of his 19 month prison sentence. Dr. Goldberg also discusses his experiences after his release and the traveling he did both throughout the United States and abroad including Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Paris, France. He also briefly discusses his involvement in advocating for prison reform after his release.
Goldberg, David (interviewee)
Morris, Chris (interviewer)
Christopher Morris [00:00:01] I'm Chris Morris, it's the 29th of June, 2016. I'm here in Rhodes Tower with Dr. David Goldberg again. I'll just get started here. I was wondering if you could just... We ended with... right on your prison experience. If you could just kind of take us through the steps. You turned in your draft card and then you wrote your letter. If you could just kind of start there.
David Goldberg [00:00:25] Oh, well, you know, I think I told you I was put on trial. The resistance had really faded by the time I was put on trial. So basically what I decided to do is plead guilty and write a statement of court. Why I refuse to cooperate with Selective Service, talking about the war in Vietnam and somewhat also talking about the history of civil disobedience using nonviolent resistance in the United States and so on. I concluded my statement. Judge sentenced me to two years in prison.
Christopher Morris [00:00:55] And when was this?
David Goldberg [00:00:58] This is June 16th, 1969.
Christopher Morris [00:01:01] And where was this?
David Goldberg [00:01:08] Trial was in Boston.
Christopher Morris [00:01:08] What happened after...?
David Goldberg [00:01:17] Well, I think I mentioned last time, once you're sentenced by a judge in a federal court, they take you to a local jail that they used to hold you in until the feds decide which federal prison you'll be assigned to. So they took me to the Norfolk County Jail. That was the prison where Sacco and Vanzetti were held for a while. I was actually kind of fortunate because I had heard, really, horror stories of some fellow prisoners being held in the Charles Street jail, which is notoriously bad. Even in Worcester, where I think they still used what they call the shit bucket. So it's actually kind of glad. They stopped using it. I mean the feds kinda actually they try to have some discretion where they were sending people. They got bad reports on Western Charles Street. This is what I remember. So I was taken to Norfolk County Jail and basically held in a cell there with a cellmate for two and a half weeks until I got transferred.
Christopher Morris [00:02:15] What were those two and a half weeks like?
David Goldberg [00:02:20] Well, it wasn't, you know, the first time I'd been in prison. Other times I've been arrested in demonstrations, so you really don't know what to expect. I think I mentioned to you I had a cellmate, who actually, he'd been busted for illegally crossing the border from Canada and he had already done time. And he actually, I think I mentioned, was helpful to me and gave me some things to watch out for. Like, don't trust anyone who comes up to you and tries to do you a favor. I remember that. He was actually a pretty nice guy. So you're sharing a cell with him. You only got out for one hour a day for exercise and it was a pretty small yard. But other than that, it's actually pretty uneventful and pretty boring.
Christopher Morris [00:03:10] How did you feel about that entire experience?
David Goldberg [00:03:12] I can't remember how I felt. I mean, all along I felt like the thing to do was resist the war, which I wish more people had done when the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003. So I had absolutely no doubt that individuals should take a stand against the war by refusing to cooperate. So I felt pretty good about that. But obviously I was nervous about what was going to happen next and, you know, what the whole experience was gonna be like.
Christopher Morris [00:03:37] How old were you?
David Goldberg [00:03:39] I think I was 24 at that time.
Christopher Morris [00:03:41] Did that disrupt any of your education?
David Goldberg [00:03:52] Well, technically, it disrupted my education. I was still in the PhD program at Columbia and I had taken my oral. So what I needed to do is write a dissertation. But once I completed my orals, I had really no interest in doing a dissertation at that time. And so I remember the last five or six months before I had my trial was a very, very uncertain time because you couldn't make plans to do anything. That's a time when I went out to the Milwaukee 14 trial, which really, really impressed me because I had good friends in Madison, actually, stayed in Madison, when you go down there for the trial. That was May 1969. If I remember correctly. But other than that, I remember being kind of loose ends. It was a low point for the anti-war movement. Spring of 69 before it revived, actually, fall of 1969. So I remember almost thinking I'd just rather get to trial. Get it over with at that point.
Christopher Morris [00:04:42] Where did you end up being sent?
David Goldberg [00:04:48] Well, I think I might have mentioned that finally the feds show up with two US Marshals and they took three of us, two other guys who were also in Norfolk. I remember getting in, you know, the car that they have, and they handcuff you all together in the backseat and there are two of them. And the U.S. marshal saying, jokingly, "we're on our way to Atlanta," which was the last place you wanted to go. But it was a joke. I kind of knew that. So they drive you down, handcuffed, to Danbury, which is about a three hour drive.
Christopher Morris [00:05:21] How come you didn't want to go to Atlanta?
David Goldberg [00:05:25] Atlanta is a pretty notorious federal prison. So it's not a place where you wanna spend your time. They don't send people doing two years to Atlanta. So kind of, I think for a second, I would just remember that he said that and he's not serious about this. Just trying to play a little game.
Christopher Morris [00:05:40] What was Danbury like?
David Goldberg [00:05:41] Well, that's a quite a big question. What was Danbury like? But I would say the essential aspect that Danbury is being built, I think in 1940. It was what's called medium security correctional institution. It always had a reputation as kind of a quote-unquote country club because a lot of white collar criminals had been sent there, in fact, including some pretty well-known people. But it had changed in the sense that, when I arrived at this point – and it ended up playing a big role – was during my time in Danbury – and this is true of the feds – they're always making changes. They had passed a federal law in 1965 called Narcotics Addicts Rehabilitation Act that everyone referred to as NARA. This was a law had been passed in 65 and aimed at trying to do something about the wave of heroin epidemic, you might say, and crime resulting from use of heroin. So when I arrived in Danbury in June 69, the population changed considerably. One, it was way overcrowded. It was built for about 450. And housed something like around 700. It was way overcrowded. You slept in dormitories and so you had upper bunks and lower bunks and they had 70 in a dormitory, which meant it could be very, very noisy in a winter because they didn't have any... they didn't even have a library there, they didn't have the facilities for what it was becoming, because they were getting an increasing number of young... Now, heroin addicts – and I was never quite clear to me – most of them probably been busted for committing crimes, but they had been sentence under NARA. So they were doing indefinite sentences from, theoretically, you can get out a month or two, up to 10 years, which is a very, very difficult sentence to do. And they had therapy programs for them. Most of them got out in 18 months. I could go on and on about the program, which I think was a real failure. But the bottom line is that meant that the Danbury population was changing. So I would say it was about 20 percent Puerto Rican. A lot of inmates from Puerto Rico. And about maybe 40 percent African-American. 40 percent white. But especially among the African-American population, there was this growing number of African-Americans from both D.C. and the New York area. So the population was changing. They weren't ready for that. And that was a big part of my experience in Danbury. In terms of, again... And there also were only about seven or eight other people in there who were draft resisters. There were some in there for drug offenses. Prison is very much kind of cliques. So all the Puerto Ricans stuck together. African-Americans kind of... there was a Muslim population, Sunni Muslims and Black Muslims, all of them hung together based on whether they came from D.C., or whether they came from New York. Among the white population, there was some older Italians. Draft resistors tended to hang with what we called the druggies. There were some we called hillbillies. So there are a number of cliques in prison. The dining room had become segregated. Some draft resistors during the Second World War had fought to integrate it. But by the time I was in Danbury it was segregated, kind of just, you know, by custom – where people sat in the dining room.
Christopher Morris [00:09:11] Was there any kind of sense of activism or attention on the war?
David Goldberg [00:09:28] Well, a good question about was there activism or attention to the war in prison? I would say not very much. The first thing I noted, most people really didn't care what you were in for. And that wasn't much of an issue. And a lot of times, I always knew who the NARAs were. I mean, I was the only draft resister in my dormitory. And I got to know a good number, I would say especially of the African-American prisoners. And I can mention a project I worked on with some of them. So there wasn't that much attention to what you went in for... And what was the major question you...?
Christopher Morris [00:10:06] Just if there was any attention?
David Goldberg [00:10:11] Oh, yeah. I'm sorry about that. I got off on a sidetrack. Attention to the war is... We only had one protest over the war. That was when they had moratorium day in – it was either September, October 1969 – that was a kind of revival of anti-war protest after people realized that, you know, Nixon's Vietnamization program meant a continuation of the war. So the anti-war movement actually revived on the outside by September 1969. So there was a huge national protest called the moratorium, where people staged peaceful protests. A number of cities refused to work. A lot of workplaces closed. A lot of ordinary middle class people participated in that more than any other anti-war protests. So remember, there was a small number of us when we learned about the moratorium. We tried to figure out what should we do? You know, kind of a solidarity with it. So I think there's only about seven or eight of us decided to wear an armband – a black armband – in support of moratorium. And at that time I had a job, because I had actually, you know, refused my first job going into the cell. Then I ended up going to a hole and then I ended up getting a job in the office for a while. And when I wore the black armband into the office, God came in. And, you know, we always called it God instead of hacks and screws. But hack came in and tore it off my arm. And just literally tore it off and said, "You're not allowed to wear that." So I said, okay, that's it. So that day I was walking across the yard after lunch – they had a yard there – and I got pulled into a [barber shop], they actually had a barber shop. And this hack closed the door. And I actually thought he... I mean he really looked like he was going to beat me or something like that, which would have probably got him fired so it wouldn't have been a good idea. I always figured he had a son who had all died in Vietnam or something like that. But he ended up not doing any anything. But that was the only protest that I can remember connected to the war that we had while I was in Danbury or even afterwards where I went to other places.
Christopher Morris [00:12:14] What was the first job that you were [assigned in prison]?
David Goldberg [00:12:18] Well, first job I remember when I got to prison I was still kind of rebellious, so they put you through orientation. That's called A and O which is you know just a lot of B.S. and things like that. And you don't really do anything when you go through A and O and then they assign me to a hospital. And I guess now this might not seem you know P.C. or something like that, but I'm thinking I'm doing time, I'm not doing time in another institution like a hospital on top of being in a prison. And also, I still in kind of a rebellious mood. So I refused the job assignment, which is not really a good idea to do. So they put me in the hole, which is just a cell for 24 hour hours. I think I was there for two days and then they let me out. And so remarkably enough, when I got out of there, they assigned me to this office with actually another draft resister. We took the pictures, the mug shots of prisoners coming in, worked in the office. Now, they would not have treated an ordinary prisoner that way. And I think the reason... refusing a job assignment, you either would have gotten one of the worst job assignments or would have gotten transferred out. But I think they knew that people who were draft resistors had connections on the outside. So they treated us differently even though I ended up losing that job also.
Christopher Morris [00:13:30] How did you lose that job?
[00:13:31] Well, I lost that job in an interesting way because... I remember... it was a cushy job because you worked in the office. It was just two civilian employees. And you actually got to see all the people coming in because the feds are always moving people around and you can get a bus that will come in with like 30 and we'd take their photos. Other than that, you could just sit there and read. You've also got to see the files. So you knew the thicker the file, the longer the time they had done. And there was some pretty thick files. I mean, there are people who become institutionalized. Just go from one prison to another or go get out, commit another crime, go back in. I lost a job because they actually had something where... I mean, there's a lot of Mickey Mouse stuff in Danbury. Unlike Williamsburg, where I went later on or whatever. And they actually had some kind of contest where you decorated your dorm. And if you won, the dorm that won the contest – this sounds unbelievable, I realize – got to send a photo back home. You know, nice glossy 5 x 8 photo. So I was taking the photos. And as people are going by, I just said, come on and have your photo taken and sent back home. I didn't care if they'd won and they bounced me out of that job. And then I got sent to the warehouse as a result of that, which is a different kind of job, more physical in some ways, with a really nasty hack. But actually, I prefer, you know, the loading, unloading trucks to sitting in the offices. Then I got transferred out of that too.
Christopher Morris [00:14:52] Did you try to educate anybody during...?
David Goldberg [00:14:58] Well, yeah, I wouldn't call it education, but probably the most interesting experience I had in Danbury. There was a very militant African-American inmate. And I remember he refused to cut his hair and grew an afro and he was always getting in trouble, especially with the the assistant warden, whose major task seemed to be make sure you always got a haircut. Things like that. He was a kind of militant guy and I kind of... You know, there was a lot of rapping and I got to know him. And I think was on his initiative. This is the time of the black power movement, a lot of attention black studies. He got the idea. I can't remember his name. We were talking we got the idea there. We would circulate a petition in Danbury for a black history course because they had no courses or anything. And again, for this younger population. So we got a petition together that we passed around, you know, on the yard where, you know, prison circulator and dorm, whatever. We got – I don't remember – 250-300 signatures on it. And surprisingly enough, the administration – I don't think we did anything other than the petition – agreed that they would establish some kind of black history class. Which, by the way, I realize is secondary to [the fact that] they didn't have the kind of educational programs a lot of younger inmates needed, but still it was something we thought was important at the time. And so they establish a black history class and there's a community college near Danbury, Western Connecticut State College. So they hired this guy whose name was Rosenberg, actually. And he came in to do the class. And he was awful. I mean, he was really pathetic. I mean, he was patronizing. Didn't know much about, you know, how to do a class in prison. And he actually kind, I dunno, he actually acted like he was doing us a favor. So we started off maybe with 60 in a class and it dwindled down. But that provided a vehicle for something that actually turned out pretty interesting. Because Danbury is only 70 miles from New York City. And I had contacts, and through other contacts, using that class, we invited – and we got the administration to agree to this – people to come up to give talks in the evening in connection to the class. The most amazing thing is we got John Henrik Clark, who is a world renowned scholar and Africana studies at Hunter College. He was one of the initiators of Africana studies. I can't remember if it was Sawyer – I remember that was his name – who contacted him? There was a lot of interest in prisons at this time. It's kind of connected to the black power movement also. And he agreed to come up and he gave a talk. I think we had... And it was, I think it was in the dining room was the only place, where there might have been two hundred people there. It was just an incredible experience that he came and he agreed to do that. I really felt indebted to him. And then I had other contacts, like we had an African-American professor of history at Vassar College, Norm Hodges, who came up. That also attracted a very large crowd. I remember a very moving moment. A lot of inmates paint. Someone presented him with a painting after his talk. We had a talk on Haiti. I remember other people, a couple of others, a professor I worked with at Columbia came up, gave a talk. I remember, I think he was the only white person who came and a lot of the African-Americans didn't come. I remember being angry about that. But, you know, maybe we had about 30 people there. I said, what's the difference? It was really a good talk. He did a comparison on slavery in [inaudible] and the West Indies. And I think we had total maybe about six different talks. So the class stunk and eventually faded away. But it did provide something, you know, kind of stimulation. I also had a friend of mine send in a bunch of books on African-American history, but they disappeared. I still don't know what happened to them. Something about 20 books because again, there was no library there at all.
Christopher Morris [00:18:59] How else did you spend your time?
David Goldberg [00:19:05] How do you spend your time? Well, fortunately, I love sports. So sports are big in prison. And I even played on my dorm's softball team because they have a softball diamond there. And so, you know, there's a lot of betting on football. Cigarettes are a major form of currency in prison and whatever. So a lot of friendly gambling. They had a basketball court. They had a paddle ball or I should say a handball court. Handball is a really rugged sport that's almost, you know – popular in Brooklyn, and – really, really a hard sport to play. You need a good left hand and didn't play much handball. But we actually somehow had rackets, I played a lot of racquetball. So in the summer, there was a decent amount of recreation. Weightlifting is big in prison also, which I didn't do. So in the summer, it was pretty tolerable – to the extent that prison could be tolerable – in the sense that you either had some recreation or basically the major summer activity was just a walk around the yard. I think if you walked around the yard six times, that was a mile or something like that. So I don't know how many times you walk around a mile. And then they have a commissary and we tried to, you know, buy Tang and make these crazy summer drinks or whatever, pretend they were cocktails or whatever. So the summer was more tolerable in the sense that everybody's out in the yard. Winter was quite difficult there because, well, they had a TV room. I remember their TV room. They had to have a white, an African-American, and a Puerto Rican on the TV committee. Because, you know, you would have had brawls over... if everyone said, I want to watch this program, I want to watch that program. It's before the era of cable. So they actually would put out a TV schedule and you would have to adhere to that. There would be a problem if you try to change the channel. And they also had a card room. But on that, there was really no other facilities there in the winner. So a winter is much more difficult than when the weather got good.
Christopher Morris [00:21:05] Was there any sort of violence in the prison yard?
David Goldberg [00:21:44] You would think there would be some violence. You know, 700 males cooped up. But Danbury didn't have any one there for committing violent crimes. It wasn't that kind of prison. And even though it was getting to be a younger population, I can only remember maybe four or five fights. Maybe one person got stabbed in prison. Any kind of weapon like a knife is called a shank. And there's always a lot of talk about people having a shank. They would periodically have searches of – trying to think of the term they would use – where they would have like a lockdown. There would be an unannounced... And then everybody would have to go back. You had I like a little cubicle and you would have to go back to your cubicle. They would search the lockers. So there's always this concern about, you know, people having shanks, which could be used as a weapon. But I would say only that I can remember maybe four or five fights, which is not very much at all given that kind of confinement and all that.
Christopher Morris [00:22:51] Is there anything else you wanted to say about Danbury?
David Goldberg [00:23:00] Wanted to say about Danbury? Well, one thing I would say is when I got out – I mean, maybe I can raise this later – I went down to D.C. and did some lobbying about things that were all wrong about it. But I think I hit most of the highlights about Danbury. Except, the other thing I might mention is you have a parole hearing. And as a draft resister doing two years, I knew I wasn't going to get parole because that was just a federal policy. Everyone knew that if you're doing two years, you're going to have to finish your bit. You do get time off. So technically you end up doing nine months about – I mean, 19 months rather. So I remember my parole hearing. Parole hearings inspired a lot of nervousness among those doing time. Especially say if you're doing five years, you're eligible for parole after one third of your time. And I remember convolutions people would go through when they were getting ready for their parole hearing. Like you would... You know, cigarettes are a form of currency in prison. So people would... If you had a job working in, you know, where they pressed the laundry, people would pay extra cigarettes to get their clothes extra specially pressed. You know, they had a commissary [where] you could buy all these hair products. I mean, people would walk literally into the parole hearings, wearing khaki uniforms, trying to look as good as possible. That was [inaudible]. So, you know, I was always this kind of rebel, so I knew I wasn't going to get parole. So I walked in really sloppy, which is probably my natural state anyway. And I know walking into a parole hearing, they have a stenographer, and a parole person who was responsible for the parole hearing who starts off the way you probably started off every single parole hearing they ever had, saying, do you have any questions? And I am sure they never had anyone ask any questions. So, yeah, I said, I have a question. I want to know what corporations you have investments in. And that guy went like, what the hell? We just had the most bizarre parole hearing. And then I was thinking this. The stenographer was taking it all down, all that, like it was some kind of normal parole hearing. Because I knew I wasn't going to get it anyway. I wasn't gonna play their games. All that. Just remember that day.
Christopher Morris [00:25:13] What ended up...?
David Goldberg [00:25:20] Well, I was in Danbury then for a year, and what was happening was more and more of these NARAs were being shipped into Danbury and it was really getting crowded. It was... Again, it wasn't particularly tense. But after a year, I mean, the tedium really, really gets to you. Obviously, every day's the same. And I knew there were a lot of draft resisters in Allenwood, which is a prison camp outside of a penitentiary in Lewisburg. And one of the reasons I knew that, we got a publication called The Peacemaker. And we actually did get a lot of publications. So you could read. You know, I didn't do as much reading in prison as you would've thought. But you get publications sent in. We will get this publication called The Peacemaker. It came out of Cincinnati, a pacifist group, and they listed people who were in prison for draft and all the different federal prisons from El Reno, which is in Oklahoma, to Lompoc, which is in California, Sandstone, which is in and Minnesota. So you know where people were being held. And the thing is, when you look to The Peacemaker, you saw there are a lot of draft resistors at Allenwood. And I kind of got the idea. Well, you know, I'd rather, you know, if I got a chance, maybe it'd be a good idea to get transferred. Just maybe it'd also make it a little easier in finishing up the time. So I think a general prison rule is if you want something, go and ask for it. So I had gone to my caseworker. You got assigned a caseworker. And I think I did that in March or April 1970. Can I get a transfer to Allanwood? What would that be possible? But buses kept on coming in because, I think going back, and I didn't get transferred. But finally a bus came in one day and I think you had like the bus was gonna be there overnight and somehow you found out they were gonna be doing transfers. I ran to my caseworker and said, "Hey can I get a transfer?" Because, you know, I thought it'd be a good idea to break up my bit. And that actually turned out to be a good idea. And he arranged it. So with almost notice – you don't have any stuff, it's just the stuff that is in your locker – I got transferred down the next morning. And I thought I was gonna be going to Allenwood. I actually kind of knew this, but it turned out a little differently because they send you first to Lewisburg, which is a big penitentiary. And I thought I was only going to be in Lewisburg for two days and I ended up being there for three weeks, much longer than I anticipated, which was a whole different experience.
Christopher Morris [00:27:49] [inaudible question]
David Goldberg [00:27:52] Well, Lewisburg is where people are doing big time. Murder. You know, maybe doing life, doing 20 year bits. So it's a totally different atmosphere and environment than Danbury. The thing I remember about Danbury that surprised me by the way, I thought when you go into a prison, everything's going to be really glum, just doing time. But in Danbury there was a lot of rapping. There was also, you know, sex is a big topic. I know you'll be shocked to hear that. And all that. So there's a lot of insult going around, especially among Puerto Ricans accusing others of being gay, whatever. That's part of the prison lingo at that time. So I remember when I was in Danbury, I was surprised by how much is a lot of this kind of insulting kind of rapping that goes on. That's part of prison life. But when you went to Lewisburg, it felt very, very different. It just... There wasn't that much of that. Because, you know, there are people who had gotten killed in Lewisburg. You got to know your way. So I went in A and O in Lewisburg kind of thinking I was only gonna be here for a couple of days. But they assigned me to a dormitory. And there were a couple of prisoners in that dorm who I knew from Danbury, which actually helped because I knew some people. And then they assigned me to the kitchen job. So I worked in the kitchen there, which wasn't too bad. They get you up at 5:00 a.m., but you're working a different kind of schedule. Then Phil Berrigan was there, you know, who is well known from the Catonsville incident where they destroyed draft records. There were a couple of other political offenders there. Phil Berrigan, I remember, is the most notorious. I kind of get to know them. And actually, surprisingly, Lewisburg had a really big library, unlike Danbury. It was actually, it's very ornate. If you study the history of penitentiaries in the West, you know, the whole history of how they built them in these rural areas, almost medieval style of architecture, 40 foot ceilings. It was a totally different environment from Danbury. So I go up to the library. And in prisons there are a lot of what you call jailhouse lawyers trying to work on their cases, trying to get out. And there would be a lot of those kind of jailhouse lawyers there. They actually had a baseball diamond there. I thought I might be able to play baseball. It didn't turn out that way. So. And Jimmy Hoffa was there. You'd see him walking around the yard. You didn't talk to Jimmy Hoffa. That was for sure. He had his own personal retinue of people who followed him around. So I was really struck by how different the atmosphere was. It was more intense and kind of... And you just wanted to be really, really careful, because that's the case, especially where you're afraid of a sexual attack, getting raped, and things like that would be the major fear. So I ended up being there for three weeks.
Christopher Morris [00:30:40] Did you get to talk to Phil Berrigan at all?
David Goldberg [00:30:58] Yeah, I remember I didn't talk a lot to him if I remember right. Phil Berrigan's much quieter than his brother Dan Berrigan, who became much more famous. So I just remember some kind of quiet conversations with him. It seems like there was a little... There were a few other people in there for political offenses, or who Phil Berrigan hung out with, who I kind of got to know. Though I was pretty much more on my own in Lewisburg than I had been in Danbury, I would say.
Christopher Morris [00:31:32] Where were you transferred after that?
David Goldberg [00:31:34] Well, after Lewisburg finally and again, it took a while. Then they took me out to Allenwood. Now Allenwood again is a totally different environment because it's a prison camp without a wall. And that was used to hold a lot of draft resisters. I actually realized... I actually did say this a pretty good bit because... I would not have liked to have done all my time at Allenwood because I think time went slower there. I know there was this thing about, you know, it's strange not having a wall. You're doing time. Doesn't feel like you're doing real time. You know, you're doing the same thing. You're living in a dormitory, you're getting assigned to jobs. It's just different. A different kind of atmosphere. So I was struck by that contrast. On the other hand, there were a number of draft resisters there and three who I got to know really well, who I became very, very close to and hung out after I got out of prison with. So I was fortunate in that way, in meeting some people who really became very, very good friends. Well there were other cons there, too. They used Lewisburg for a lot of people who, say you had a 10 year bit and you got six months to go, you might finish up your time in Allenwood. So, again, a variety.
Christopher Morris [00:32:50] When were you sent to Allenwood?
David Goldberg [00:32:54] Well, I went to Allenwood, it was probably July 1970 when I arrived there.
Christopher Morris [00:33:04] What was it like being around more draft resitors?
David Goldberg [00:33:13] Well, being around more draft resistors is interesting in a sense. They were... The first of all, they were Jehovah's Witness there. What we would call JWs. And nobody who was in as a draft resistor had anything to do with the JWs. The JWs are a strange group. They refuse to serve in the military, but they're some of the most – I mean, I wouldn't even call them conservative. They live in their own world. All prisoners hated JWs to be honest with you. Because they even – we had one protest in Allenwood – they never wanted to participate in anything. They just hung together. So they were a separate group. But there were, I would say, when I was in Allenwood about twenty people in for draft resistance out of a population of 350. So it's still a small minority. Maybe it's 25, but we tended to have cliques even among those in for draft because people had different orientations. And these three people – Bud, Paul, George – we just became, you know, really, really tight. Another guy who we called Merriweather was part of our clique. And so I spent a lot of time with them. And, you know, when... You had a job. But you're rapping and all that. We all likeed sports, I think that was a kind of connecting link too. Because you could play tag football and things like that.
Christopher Morris [00:34:28] What was the nature of the protest?
David Goldberg [00:34:33] Well, I can't remember. This is a funny incident. Not so not funny to me, probably, at the time. Because something happened with one of the inmates in Allenwood who had been unfairly treated. I can't remember what the exact incident was. He might have been sent back to Lewisburg. I mean, prison always operates as a reward and punishment system, by the way. So they always have things they can punish you with. Now at Allenwood, for example, you can be punished by being sent back to Lewisburg. And my memory is someone had been sent back to Lewisburg, we thought unfairly. So a number – mainly, I think it was all draft resistors, I can remember some other people – decided to stage a protest around that. But for some reason, because I was the most recently arrived, they chose me as the point man to represent these demands or whatever to the administration. And they, of course, I don't know, I think they didn't agree with any of our demands, but I ended up getting punished for that. And my punishment is I lost 10 days. They can give you extra time. You know, this part of the reward and punishments system. So you can always kind of joke with these people I still get together with about how they cost me ten days. So that was the only protest I remember now. Well, during the time I was there.
Christopher Morris [00:35:52] There was no kind of anti-war thing going on?
David Goldberg [00:35:56] No. Know, I don't think. Interesting question. I don't think once the draft resisters were in prison, they staged any anti-war protests.I don't think they saw any point to that. I think part of it is if you go back over the history, there was a group of pacifists – members actually of CORE in its early years – who when they went to prison during the Second World War, they staged a continuous series of protests. They continued to protest in prison. And I know when Dan Berrigan went to prison – and he ended up going to Danbury – he staged a lot of protests in Danbury. In fact when I got out, I went up to Danbury. As a kind of support for that. But that wasn't my orientation. I mean, I was really disturbed by the way that prison was run. But other than when I refused a first work assignment, the incident in Allenwood, I wasn't into continuous protest about prison conditions. Which is different than the orientation of others who have done time. But I don't think any of the other draft resisters in Allenwood that time were much into it. And part of it was just being in a kind of facility like that. I know when Dan Berrigan came to Danbury about our way, he actually led a number of protests over conditions. Whether they led to improvements or not. Because he came there after I'd left. But there were quite a number between I think 71 and 73 when he was there.
Christopher Morris [00:37:24] What were the overall conditions like at Allenwood?
David Goldberg [00:37:30] Well, Allenwood, you know the dorm was not too different than in Danbury. I remember the one difference in Danbury, you could not go in another door. So you were confined to your own dorm. You could go home into other dorms in Allenwood. Other than that, it really wasn't all that different than when you were doing time in Danbury. And you had a different... I did a number of different jobs there too.
Christopher Morris [00:37:51] What kinds of jobs did you do?
David Goldberg [00:37:55] My number one job was like... You know, there's a joke of, you go to prison, and you know, it's all a lot of make work. And there's a joke in prison about making small ones out of big ones. And that's what we did, because my first job in Danbury was working on what's called a rock crusher. It was like this primitive device. You would actually crush rocks to make gravel. And it was a classic make work job because the only purpose of the gravel was the use on a road that took us out to a rock crusher. If you follow the logic of that. But then we put up a snow fence. We did some painting jobs, various jobs like that. Because it was kind of like an outdoor work crew that we were part of.
Christopher Morris [00:38:33] Was there any talk of what you would do after you got out of prison in terms of anti-war...?
David Goldberg [00:38:58] No, I don't think while we were in prison – I'm thinking about, you know, Paul, George and Bud who I hung out a lot with in Allenwood – I don't think we talk that much by this time about the kind of anti-war activity we would do when we get out. We were just looking forward to getting out. With everyone, I think... The one thing I remember is everybody being a little uncertain about what they would do when they got out. What their plans would be.
Christopher Morris [00:39:26] What were your plans?
David Goldberg [00:39:33] Well, I didn't know. But I knew one thing. When I got out, I was going to travel. I wasn't going back to graduate school. I knew that. So I had a lot of interesting experiences when I got out.
Christopher Morris [00:39:47] When did you get out?
David Goldberg [00:39:51] Well, I got out in January, I think was 10th, 1971. And actually while I was in Allenwood... When the people came to Allenwood there was a guy named George Mische. He'd been part of Catonsville 8, you know, that destroyed draft records, got a lot of national publicity by the group, he had a lot of connections also. And so when I got out of Allenwood I was really concerned about, you know, the wastefulness of prison. Especially those who are younger. You know, once you're in your 30s or 40s, a lot of these people were just going in and out of prison. But I was in Danbury with people now 18, 19, 20. Those NARA programs doing absolutely nothing for them was a total waste. And I really wanted to do something about prison conditions and I wanted to travel. So with George Mische, I kind of hooked up an idea that I would travel around to different cities trying to make connections with lawyers to help people who were in prison. It was a kind of idea. But when I got out, first place I went to was DC and actually I was really surprised. I kind of went down to Washington, D.C., found a place to stay there. And I started just on my own to lobby some of what I knew the more liberal Congresspeople at the time. I remember Koch who ended up becoming mayor of New York. Herman Badillo was a Puerto Rican representative from New York. I was amazed. I went down just my own. I spoke to the people in their office. They were very receptive to me. I told them I was really concerned about conditions in the federal prisons. Something needs to be done. They allowed me – and I remember they – I wrote up a 25 page statement, which they then typed and prepared. And they were holding hearings at the same time on federal prison conditions. So it actually got entered into the testimony almost like I was there. So I did this kind of personal lobbying on my own. And then... Because I had decided I was going to travel around the country anyway. And I kind of did some other traveling, connecting with lawyers, trying to get them in touch with people in prison. But... So I traveled, you know, all the way out to Colorado; Albuquerque, New Mexico. Did a lot of hitchhiking being on a road. It was the best thing to do after getting out of that joint by far. And so it was a good way to spend the next four months.
Christopher Morris [00:42:19] Did anything come out of those lobbying...?
David Goldberg [00:42:27] Not much, to be honest, came out of the lobbying. I remember I got interviewed in the Boston Globe about the conditions. I did the lobbying. I would try to make the connections with the lawyers. I don't think very much came out of that, but it was soemthing that I felt like I wanted to do.
Christopher Morris [00:42:44] What were some of those experiences while you were hitchhiking?
David Goldberg [00:42:58] Well, hitchhiking, it's funny because I teach about the 60s. And I always get into the cultic counterculture and hippie life and all that. And I think the best part of the 60s for me that doesn't get talked about that much was just being able to hit the road hitching. And there was a lot of that. Of course, you get hassles. You get hassled by the police. You can get picked up by actually probably men who were secretly gay wanted to pick you up. So there are things to look out for. But I had some really, really good experiences on the road, doing a lot of hitching. Something that's really lost today. Two of the most memorable experiences at that time. One is, so you could go to a city and you knew there was a kind of peace activists just call them up and say, hey, I just got out the joint, I need a place to crash. And so they would say yeah. You know, and so you would have a place to stay. So I stayed. Joan Baez and a group she was connected with had some kind of retreat in Golden, Colorado. I think that's where they brew Coors. So I was able to stay there for four days, just hanging out in the mountains. And then I remember hitching down to Albuquerque, New Mexico. And it was a war resisters league group there I connected with. So I spent a week there. And while I was there, they got invited up to Los Alamos. They gave a presentation on the war. So I got to be part of that. I was really thinking, even though I didn't know where I was gonna... I really... Through a woman I met there when I was in Albuquerque, I was thinking I was gonna stay in Albuquerque. You know, that didn't turn out. And then I got a ride back from Albuquerque to Buffalo. And I went down to Buffalo and arrived for the big May Day protest in Washington, D.C., which was this effort – May 1st, 1971 – to stop the government, it turns out, with mass arrests, 13000 people getting arrested and all that.
Christopher Morris [00:44:53] What was that like?
David Goldberg [00:44:59] Well, the May Day protest on paper looked really good to me. I mean, this is amazing. The war still continuing. I've done my time. The war, you know, bombing is still going on, all the atrocities are still continuing, even though there are these peace negotiators coming on. And, you know, as I think I mentioned in the first interview, there are all these anti-war groups that came and went. So there was a group that had decided – and this is an idea that I thought it was a good one – to have a day in Washington, D.C. – I think it kind of gets unrecognized in the history of the anti-war protests – where people would just descend on Washington and say, no business as usual. That was kind of their slogan. And we're saying you continue this war, we're going to stop you from operating the government and all that. So that was the idea on paper. So this was an amazing moment because I remember that I got a ride from Albuquerque to Buffalo. I hitched down from Buffalo to D.C. I arrive in this park where there are thousands of people camped out. And you just. It was like... In some ways it was like hippie heaven or whatever, they were smoking dope and camping out in a park and all that. Well, I think it was almost literally about seven or eight hours after I arrived. Maybe the next day the police decided to preempt a protest and they forced everyone out of that park, which is thousands of people. That was probably a couple of days before the protest. So then we all found places to stay, you know, in D.C. So I remember staying in this apartment where there must have been 20 or 25 people in this one apartment. There were people doing acid, running around naked. And then I just have to mention this. There were these four squeaky clean, maybe 17 years old, who had come from Maryland. They were so horrified because, you know, a lot of the anti-war movement was a hip hippie kind of life meets the anti-war movement. They just... It wasn't what they were expected. I just remember that. It was kind of crazy and chaotic. But the next day, we all went out in the street and the police were ready for it. So they just preempted it and they arrested everyone on the street who was just beginning to engage in protest. And they took us all to RFK stadium. You know, there were 12-13,000 people there. I think was the largest mass arrests in U.S. history. Then, though, they took us to the Washington arena. A lot of people have been tear gassed and tear gas starts to come off your clothing when you're inside. That's when I decided I'm gonna get the hell out of there. You had to pay bail or whatever to get out. So it was a good idea on paper. It really didn't accomplish anything. That said, other than you can say about the anti-war movement in total were a way of saying you conduct this war, we're not going to let you conduct your society the way you want to conduct it. In that sense.
Christopher Morris [00:47:54] And were you yourself teargassed?
David Goldberg [00:47:59] No, I wasn't teargassed. I just have this memory. I don't know much... Tear gas, if you're in enclosed space, begins to come off clothing. A lot of people... See you when we went to the Washington arena, a lot of people are saying we're not going to accept bail. We're just gonna stay here. See what they do. Once people started to see the effect of the tear gas on them, said I'm putting up my money and getting the hell out of here.
Christopher Morris [00:48:19] Was there any sort of... did anything come after that protest?
David Goldberg [00:48:36] No, the May Day protest is like a lot of the anti-war movement even going back to the Pentagon demonstration. You have a big demonstration. You make the point and then it seems like the next day the war is still going on. And then you have to figure out what to do next.
Christopher Morris [00:48:49] What did you decide to do next?
David Goldberg [00:48:54] Well, what I decided to do next... Like I said, when I got out of jail, I said I'm just hitting the road. And so, you know, I was pretty fortunate. I had some money put away, not much. And I found out because I was still technically connected to Columbia. You could get a charter flight to Europe like I think at an unbelievably low price. Maybe it was two hundred dollars. I don't know, but, you know. Back in that era that they had these charter flights to Europe. I remember because they would leave at midnight and dirt cheap. And I did what a lot of people did in that era, [which] is backpack through Europe for three months. It was a great, great experience.
Christopher Morris [00:49:38] What parts of Europe?
David Goldberg [00:49:41] Well, I had an interest in three countries, interesting. I always was drawn to where there was conflict. So three countries I had chosen where I was going to backpack: Ireland, Spain and Yugoslavia. Yogoslavia was still under Tito. So I spent a lot of time... Actually, first I want to Spain. I'd always had a really deep interest in the Spanish Civil War. Well, actually, I went there. So I went to Paris. You know, you can stay in youth hostels. You know, they don't cost hardly anything. And you buy food. You just can, you know, kids today do this, go to Indonesia or Brazil. For us it was a big thing. Just backpack through Europe. So it really doesn't take very much money. And when I was in Paris, I met these other people with a van and we traveled in a van for a couple of weeks through southern France. Basque Country. I just remember that fabulous time camping out in the countryside. You know, you're going to... This is when Franco was still in power. We got stopped by the Guardia Civil once, but you could just camp out. You find places where there are farms, build a fire. And, you know, you go to a bar and get your – I forget what they call those little jugs they have in Spain – you get your wine. So we did that. I did that for a couple of weeks. But then I traveled on my own a lot through Spain. Again, because a lot of my interests in Spain was from the Spanish Civil War. So I was there for about six weeks. And my plan had been to go to Yugoslavia because I was really interested in – for a variety of reasons – in Yugoslavia. But Spain was so hot, the heat was really getting to me. So I went back to Ireland. But Ireland proved to be interesting because I had a lot of interest in the Irish kind of struggle because... I traveled in Ireland and then I arrived in Northern Ireland at the point where the British had just announced internment. And they had had this major crackdown. People had been killed. I arrived in what is technically known as Londonderry, which all Irish Nationals called the city of Derry. That was a point of intense conflict. You know, the Catholics in the struggle in Ireland, Northern Ireland, they had used a lot of tactics in the civil rights movement. So I heard Bernadette Devlin speak. I actually got – I hitched from Derry to Belfast – I actually got picked up by British soldiers, if you can believe, who took me into their base. In other words, I had a lot of very interesting experiences both in Spain and Ireland. I regretted not going to Yugoslavia because that was a country that are also interests me. Though I've been back to Bosnia in Sarajevo, Montenegro also, which used to be part of Yugoslavia.
Christopher Morris [00:52:17] Did you try to get involved at all in your travels with the organizing?
David Goldberg [00:52:27] No, I didn't try. I had an interest in it, kind of the history of the Irish struggle against British colonialism. And it was just coincidence. I had planned this trip out that I was traveling in Ireland, which is totally peaceful across the border. In fact, if you go to the northern part of Ireland, County Donegal, it's absolutely gorgeous. I just remember spending a great three days in County Donegal, staying in a youth hostel. And, you know, the way you go out and hike around there and being on the rocks. But then I crossed the border into Northern Ireland, and that's when, again, the new stage of conflict had just been reached with the British actions. So I didn't ... Obviously as an American, I wasn't gonna participate in that. But I remember going a lot of pubs and speaking to a lot of people who had been involved in the struggle and that kind of thing. Getting a firsthand kind of view of it. I remember having a car – I went to Belfast also, which most tourists don't go to, but you know, I wasn't the ordinary tourist – I remember having a car bomb go off one block away from where I was in Belfast. Belfast was one of the tensest places I've ever been, because Belfast is a city that really divided into Protestant and Catholic. In fact, the Protestants decorated the streets, you know, the flag of Great Britain. So you know which areas you were you were in when you were in Belfast. Just remember how tense that was.
Christopher Morris [00:53:48] How long did you stay up there?
David Goldberg [00:54:02] Well, I was probably in Ireland and Northern Ireland, I can't remember, because I had spent some time in France, spent some time in London, whatever. But maybe six weeks in Spain, six weeks in Ireland total.
Christopher Morris [00:54:12] When was this?
David Goldberg [00:54:21] Well, this is, like I said, for the nine months after I got out, I was kind of living this unreal life of basically hitting the road and kind of... I don't know if it was because of confinement. You just felt like I've done my time and now I'm gonna enjoy myself or what have you. So it's kind of a reaction to that, I guess.
Christopher Morris [00:54:40] What did you do when you came back?
David Goldberg [00:54:45] Well, when I come back, I had a face real life again. What was I gonna do? Not a minor issue. But I went back to New York. Because I really at that point, I identified much more New York than Boston. I kinda... I knew I didn't want to do anything with graduate school, but I actually had this one professor, the professor who came to Danbury. He was kind of very supportive of me. He got me some fellowship money, which I never used other than to live on. I guess I should feel guilty about that. But Columbia's a wealthy institution. And then I got this job. You didn't have to do very much with research. It was called the John Jay Papers, and I was collecting all the letters of John Jay. it actually paid me a salary while I ended up doing other things, but.
Christopher Morris [00:55:43] [brief background noise and crosstalk] Is there anything else you want to add before we wrap up?
David Goldberg [00:55:59] Yeah, well, I did... The most interesting things for me were not the things I've described, but the things I did in the 70s. But we can conclude there.
Christopher Morris [00:56:06] I just have one last question. When you got out of prison, was there any concern that they would draft you again?
David Goldberg [00:56:24] I think I had a slight concern that I could be drafted again, but very, very slight. The war in that sense was winding down. They had begun the lottery. No, I didn't think you could be drafted again, although I knew someone. A history professor, Larry Gara. He was the only person I ever heard of. He was drafted in the Second World War and refused, drafted for the Korean War and refused. He was actually one of the people I visited when I travelled around the country. So, no, I don't think I remember being concerned about being drafted again. Let me add, by the way, because in my time in New York, I got heavily involved in prison support work. So that's what I ended up doing.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.
"David Goldberg interview, 29 June 2016" (2016). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 750002.