Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lawrence Davidson, March 29, 2022

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: All right, so we're now recording. So my name is Owen Cutler, I'm conducting this interview with Dr. Lawrence Davidson.

Segment Synopsis: Owen Cutler introduces his subject, Dr. Lawrence Davidson, retired faculty member from West Chester University. Owen mentions Dr. Davidson's blog, To the Point Analyses

Keywords: introduction

00:00:59 - Parents and growing up

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Partial Transcript: Alright. So let's get into the questions. I wanted to start off, uh asking you about your family, uh, you know where you grew up.

Segment Synopsis: Davidson gives a background on his parents. His father was a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Davidson describes growing up with a father who was in the military.

Keywords: Air Force Reserve; Army Air Corps; WW2; WWII; World War 2; World War Two

Subjects: Military families; Pacifists; United States. Air Force.; World War II

00:05:16 - College

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Partial Transcript: But no, it's good that you mentioned Rutgers, because, you know how did you choose Rutgers for, um, your undergraduate?

Segment Synopsis: Davidson talks about why he chose to attend Rutgers University - Newark for his undergraduate degree. He talks about driving to school while riots were happening in 1967.

Keywords: 1967 Newark riots

Subjects: Newark (N.J.); Race riots; Rutgers University

GPS: Rutgers University - Newark Campus
Map Coordinates: 40.74209, -74.17281
00:08:19 - Draft number called and jealousy over hernia

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Partial Transcript: I met other people who were very left-leaning, um, and all of us were, all the men were very anxious because we had conscription.

Segment Synopsis: Davidson talks about his time, while attending Georgetown for graduate school, when his number was called for the draft and having to go to Fort Holabird in Baltimore for his Army physical. He describes the exam. He says that his friend, Neil, ended up having a hernia and that seemed to be a relief to him, because it would get him out of the draft with a medical exemption.

Keywords: Conscription; Conscription, Military; Left-leaning; Leftists; Medical exemptions; Selective Service (military draft)

Subjects: Baltimore (Md.); Draft; Fort Holabird (Md.); Georgetown University.; United States. Army.

00:12:48 - Bird Professor

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Partial Transcript: I was, you know, we had a rad--like like, say, a left book reading, book club and all that kind of stuff.

Segment Synopsis: Davidson tells a story about one of his Biology professors, who could turn himself into a bird on stage. He explains that he became a History major because he received better grades in History than in Biology.

Keywords: College

Subjects: Biology; Birds.; History; Rutgers University

00:14:34 - Georgetown University for graduate school

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Partial Transcript: Now, now, real quick, uh, how did you choose Georgetown?

Segment Synopsis: Davidson explains his reasons for attending Georgetown for his Masters degree, and one reason was that his uncle lived in the area and worked at the Pentagon as a civilian. He also wanted to move further away from his father.

Keywords: Graduate school

Subjects: Georgetown University.; Pentagon; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Georgetown University
Map Coordinates: 38.90766, -77.07211
00:17:30 - Introduction to the Students for a Democratic Society

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Partial Transcript: And it is amazing.

Segment Synopsis: Similar to his time at Rutgers, when Davidson began at Georgetown, he sought out other left-leaning individuals. He talks about a Jesuit priest who counseled a peace group. Davidson talks about how he and three others formed the Georgetown chapter for the Students for a Democratic Society.

Keywords: Left-leaning; Leftists; SDS

Subjects: Georgetown University; Jesuits; Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)

00:21:38 - SDS vs. Alioto

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Partial Transcript: For instance, at one point, I shouldn't really give myself away. I mean, actually, actually, this this there was something that had to be done that was illegal.

Segment Synopsis: Davidson describes why the SDS protested against Mayor Joseph Alioto of San Francisco after Mayor Alioto had shut down leftist organizations in San Francisco. In response to the protests, Davidson and another student wrote an essay explaining the reasons behind their actions, which Davidson describes as a typical activity for the group.

Keywords: House Un-American Committee (HUAC); SDS; Student activism; Student protests

Subjects: Alioto, Joseph L.; San Francisco (Calif.); Student movements.; Students for a Democratic Society (US)

00:26:46 - The end of the SDS

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Partial Transcript: So anyway, so anyway, as the war wound down the SDS itself entered a crisis period.

Segment Synopsis: Davidson tells about the time he was arrested at George Washington University. He talks about the break up of the SDS Georgetown chapter, how people began to get more antagonistic and violent in their thinking. Davidson tells a story about a woman he knew who was in a house that blew up because they were trying to make bombs in the basement.

Keywords: SDS; Sino-Soviet Institute; Sino-Soviet studies; Weather Underground

Subjects: George Washington University; Students for a Democratic Society (US)

00:35:10 - Relocating to Canada

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Partial Transcript: So I packed my bags and I went off to Canada not because I was a draft dodger, but I simply wanted to get out of the country because I needed a break from this.

Segment Synopsis: Davidson explains going to Canada and earning his PhD, rather than working a typical 9-5 job. He mentions applying to all the major English speaking universities in Canada, and he was accepted into many of them, before selecting the University of Alberta because they offered him a graduate stipend. He recalls an incident of language confusion over what is a Chesterfield. Davidson describes some of the faculty and how this university could afford some of them, but in general found few people that he could relate to.

Keywords: Draft dodgers

Subjects: Alberta; Canada; Draft resisters; Edmonton (Alta.); University of Alberta

GPS: University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Map Coordinates: 53.52326, -113.52632
00:41:04 - Cold temperatures and a lack of activism in Edmonton

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Partial Transcript: Was there much activism in Alberta?

Segment Synopsis: Davidson recounts the lack of activism in Alberta after having lived in Washington D.C. He speaks about a roommate he had from Malaysia and how ill prepared he was for the winter in Canada. He also bring up the trouble his mentor got into towards the end of the time Davidson was there.

Keywords: Activism

Subjects: Canada; Edmonton (Alta.); Malaysia; University of Alberta; Washington (D.C.); Winter

00:46:02 - Fate of peers from Georgetown University

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Partial Transcript: Oh, yeah, well, I was wondering if many of your peers from Georgetown ended up leaving the country?

Segment Synopsis: Davidson talks about how some of his peers from Georgetown ended up working in mills and factories because they believed in the working class ideology. He reflects on the role of socio-economic class in the United States, and what he describes as a lack of class consciousness. He brings up working for and as an instructor at the University of Alberta and everything that came along with it.

Keywords: Blue collar labor; Marxism; Weather Underground; Weathermen

Subjects: Blue collar workers.; Class consciousness.; Georgetown University.; Socialism; University of Alberta; Weather Underground Organization.

00:49:38 - Back in the USA

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, how, how did you find yourself back in the United States?

Segment Synopsis: Davidson mentions the first academic paper he published on drugs and how the population related to drugs. He tells a story of trying to find an academic job in Canada and thinking about renouncing his U.S. citizenship and how he didn't want to mess up chances of getting an academic job in the US in the future. He briefly mentions how bad the academic job market was and how by this point in his life he was a single parent, raising a two year old son. He and his son move to Broomall, Pennsylvania, where his mother lived with her sisters.

Keywords: Canadian Manpower Office; Canadian citizenship; United States citizenship

Subjects: Broomall (Pa.); University of Alberta

GPS: Broomall, Pennsylvania
Map Coordinates: 39.96807, -75.34658
00:56:14 - Working at West Chester University

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Partial Transcript: And what I did is I sat down (coughs) and wrote to every school, every university and college within a fifty mile radius.

Segment Synopsis: Davidson talks about working for various universities in the Philadelphia area. He mentions the publications he had at the point about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He speaks about getting his position at West Chester University and describes his knowledge and personal history with the Middle East. He thinks he got the job because he was the inside candidate and people knew and liked him.

Keywords: Adjunct professors; Israel; Israeli-Palestinian conflict; St. Joseph's University

Subjects: Israel; Middle East; Palestine; Philadelphia (Pa.); Saint Joseph's University; Temple University; West Chester University of Pennsylvania

00:59:55 - You know I'm a radical

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Partial Transcript: So (coughs) how did my radicalism transform?

Segment Synopsis: Davidson describes how his beliefs haven't changed and that he has always been to the left on the mainstream. He reports how even though he is Jewish, he speaks critically about Israel and its actions because of his beliefs. He tells a story of working on the University budget committee and how a group of scientists were going to stop donating to the University because of him and things he had published. Davidson tells a story about debating someone from the Israeli Consulate General in Philadelphia.

Keywords: Budget committee; Israeli Consulate General; Left-wing; Leftists

Subjects: Israel; Jews; Palestine; Philadelphia (Pa.); West Chester University of Pennsylvania

01:08:54 - Retirement

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Partial Transcript: When I retired in 2013, I think it was.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Davidson talks about what he has done since retiring in 2013. He says he has always written short analyses and sent them to various people. He turned this writing into a blog and it has become some what successful. He mentions he had offers to monetize it, but turned those down because of the annoying aspect of website ads. He likes that he can express his leftist ideas more freely.

Keywords: Blogs; Retirement

Subjects: West Chester University of Pennsylvania

01:11:08 - Imperialism

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, no, you were talking right about the Middle East. So do you see any, uh, kinds of parallels between U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam and in Israel and the Middle East?

Segment Synopsis: Davidson gives some background on the founding of Israel, European Imperialism, and the spreading of European ideals in the late 19th and, early 20th centuries. He talks about what happened when the Jewish people from Europe moved into Palestine. He finishes by talking about how the ways he has expressed himself on different matters over the years has made people think differently about who he is.

Keywords: Foreign Policy

Subjects: Europe; Imperialism; International relations; Israel; Jews.; Middle East.; Palestine; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; World War II

01:19:44 - Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: So we have reached, uh, most of what I want to talk about.

Segment Synopsis: Davidson finishes by touching on not being able to reconcile with his father before he passed away in the 1970s. When asked if he had any regrets or if he would change anything, he said there is nothing he would change. He admits he did some stupid things, but is at peace with everything.

Subjects: Fathers; Vietnam War, 1961-1975