We Won’t Go! (And We Don’t Want You To Go, Either): Oral History
The purpose of this oral history project is to document the Vietnam War resistor movement in Minnesota. The project will do interviews with people who broke the law, violating the Selective Service Act, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Among those will be the “Minnesota 8,” the 1970s Selective Service draft board raiders. The individuals to be interviewed will have in common that they were actually tried and convicted of violating the Selective Service Act, by either 1) refusing to be inducted, refusing to report for induction, or refusing to register in the first place, or 2) carrying out a raid on a draft board in Minnesota, or else in another state (two raids by Minnesotans were carried out elsewhere).
Accordingly, the project will be in two phases, a first to interview draft board “raiders,” and a second to interview draft “resisters.” Each phase will be the subject of its own grant proposal, of which this proposal is the first.
There are copious document records from the period already in hand. They will be used to more fully understand the period, and also to identify more potential interview subjects. More than one Minnesota resistance publication tracked and named those who were convicted and imprisoned.
The Minnesota Independent Scholars Forum (MISF) is both aware and appreciative that the oral history office of the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) is currently doing a project ("Minnesota Vietnam War Era Oral History Project") that will include 60 interviews with people who represent all sides of the Vietnam War era in Minnesota, "including “Minnesota veterans who served during the Vietnam War; relatives of service members; Southeast Asian refugees and veterans who came to Minnesota after the war; and those involved in anti-war protests and related social movements in Minnesota." It is a broad project designed to document varying reactions of Minnesotans to the war.
This project’s focus will be both narrower and broader than that of the MNHS project: narrower in the sense that it will be on Minnesotans whose acts in defiance of the Selective Service System gained them felony convictions and, often, prison sentences, and broader in the sense that interviews with more draft resistors and raiders will supplement and expand that subset of the MNHS project.
Accordingly, this first phase of the project proposes to interview ten of the draft board “raiders,” including all of the Minnesota 8. Two of the “8” have been interviewed as part of the broader, MNHS Oral History Project. However, in its effort to produce a comprehensive history of the “raider/resister” subset of the Vietnam war experience, and to interrelate the interviews, this project phase proposes to include its own interviews of those two “raiders.” To avoid duplication of public funding, MISF will provide for those two re-interviews as part of its “In-Kind” contribution to the project. MISF also understands that the MNHS project has no plans to do any more interviews of either raiders or resisters.
Although the raiders are commonly grouped together as a unit, like the Minnesota 8, each person has a unique story to tell. Their ages, backgrounds, ties to the University of Minnesota, reasons for risking imprisonment by raiding draft boards and destroying records, responses to their arrests and convictions and years in federal prisons, and commitment as war resistors are the stories of individuals whose actions came to represent Minnesota’s role in the antiwar movement. Documenting their stories as individuals will add to the depth of knowledge and layers of information available about this period of Minnesota history.
Although the interview subjects will have their felony convictions in common, it is sure that their motivations and decisions will be widely divergent. Some will have deep and long held religious convictions as their personal belief foundation, while others will be mainly political. Questions to be raised in the interviews include:
1) What family, social, religious, and political environments shaped your views and actions?
2) What moved you to knowingly break the law and risk imprisonment?
3) How did you both work and not work in alliance with one another?
4) How did your actions affect your later life?
5) Do you now regret how you acted back then, are you proud of how you acted, and/or do you wish you had done more to oppose the war?
6) Have your political views substantially changed since then?
7) Why do you think Minnesota was such a "hotbed" of resistance to the war?
Transcriber: developing a draft transcript, audit editing the transcript, adding footnotes as directed by the oral historian, spell checking, printing out a master copy on acid-free paper, and providing a copy of the transcript in recommended electronic format.