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Entin, David Hudson

David Entin Papers

1966-2015 Bulk: 1966-1968
2 boxes 1 linear feet
Call no.: MS 876
Vietnamese children
Vietnamese children

A worker in the struggle against poverty and racism for five decades, David Entin was raised in New York City environs until his family moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1953 when he was twelve years old. He began his anti-poverty work with the North Carolina volunteers, a pioneering early effort where he worked with low-come families in Durham, NC. David then joined the North Carolina Fund, a statewide Ford Foundation project where he helped develop and wrote the first rural anti-poverty program under the new Economic Opportunity Act for Craven County (New Bern), NC. From there he helped start the initial anti-poverty program in Jacksonville. His new career was interrupted by Vietnam War service with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Stationed in Quang Ngai Province, a Vietcong stronghold, and Da Nang between 1966 and 1968, Entin oversaw redevelopment projects and while not caught up in the fight itself, he was charged with assessing damage in Region One following the Tet Offensive. After returning home to Florida, Entin resumed his antipoverty work.

The collection centers around 51 detailed letters describing the two years that David Entin spent in Vietnam working with USAID; these letters serve as a diary recording Entin’s daily activities and observations and accompany several hundred slides and photographs. Also included in the collection are a series of short autobiographical essays that detail his childhood, early career, and service in Vietnam.

Background on David Entin

Born in Jackson Heights, Queens, in 1942, David Hudson Entin was eight when his family moved to the suburbs of New York City, and twelve when they relocated to Jacksonville, Florida. Adjusting to the realities of life in the South was a challenge for a young New Yorker just entering his teenage years. Academically, he discovered that seventh grade in Florida was considered a part of the primary school system, meaning that he reverted back to a one teacher-one classroom model, and he soon discovered that the quality of instruction was far inferior to what he had known up north. Culturally, the adjustments were even more challenging. Segregation, in particular, proved difficult for Entin to grasp, and the pervasive religious homogeneity was nearly as perplexing. In New York, his suburban home was located in a Jewish enclave set amid an array of Protestant and Catholic blocks, whereas Jacksonville was nearly uniformly Baptist. For Entin, segregation and religious conformity came to signify a general close-mindedness that he found increasingly difficult to accept. From that point on, a commitment to civil rights and economic justice became central parts of his life.

By the time he was ending his graduate student in History at the University of North Carolina, having just completed a thesis on Angelo Herndon, the civil rights movement was reaching a peak. He was making plans to join the SNCC campaigns in the deep South as the summer of 1964 approached, when he learned of a new student-run antipoverty program, the North Carolina Volunteers. Both he and his girlfriend (later wife), Audrey Bunce, immediately decided to focus their energies on their adopted state.

Working with the Durham County Welfare Department, the Volunteers tutored children in basic reading and mathematics and brought their students to plays and the pool to expose them to a wider world. When the summer ended, Entin and Bunce took positions managing youth employment and job training programs in Craven County, winning a million-dollar grant from the federal Neighborhood Youth Corps. Recognized as the first rural anti-poverty program in the US, this project quickly became the county’s largest employer, but the backlash came swiftly. Marked both as civil righters and government employees, the Entins were greeted with intense hostility from the white community and local officials, and their work for racial integration and pay equity even earned them gunshots in the night while staying at an isolated farm outside New Bern. When a former Klansman became director of the program in 1965, Entin returned to Jacksonville to start up an antipoverty program there.

In 1966, Entin set aside his new career for service in the Vietnam War. Not keen on the war or becoming a soldier, he enlisted instead in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which offered a better fit to his skills and ethics. Stationed in Quang Ngai province, a Viet Cong stronghold, he oversaw a variety of projects in rural reconstruction and development, providing supplies to rural hamlets and assisting generally in rebuilding from the fallout of war. Early in 1968, he was appointed Reports Officer for Region One, based in Da Nang, where he was responsible for compiling reports on the impact of military operations. Although not directly caught up in the Tet Offensive, his experiences documenting the devastation solidified his already strong opposition to the war.

After returning home to Jacksonville later in 1968, Entin spent several months running his father’s business, but when approached to become head of the city’s newly-formed Community Relations Commission, he jumped at the chance. The Commission was an effort to improve race relations and build support for the government within the African American community, and Entin set about attempting to improve employment and housing opportunities for African Americans and plan for school integration.

After leading state-level antipoverty programs in Massachusetts from 1973 to 1983, Entin returned to graduate study in Sociology at Boston University, earning a doctorate in 1987 for Missions of Antipoverty Organizations: Change and Survival. After completing his degree, he embarked on a new career as an academic administrator in higher education, eventually becoming Vice President for Academic Affairs at Holyoke Community College. David Entin retired in June 2006 and lives in a co-housing complex in Northampton.

Contents of Collection

A richly evocative collection of 51 letters, the David Entin collection reflects the experiences of a USAID employee stationed in South Vietnam during the war years of 1966 to 1968. Addressed to his parents, these letters function as a sort of diary, recording Entin’s daily activities and observations. They are accompanied by hundreds of slides and photographs taken during the period and by a series of later autobiographical essays, detailing Entin’s childhood, early career, and service in Vietnam.

During his first six months in Vietnam, Entin regularly recorded the new experiences each day offered, whether attending a school opening, traveling via helicopter to nearby provinces to deliver supplies, or meeting with supervisors to assess projects and programs in need of USAID support. Although his work was consistently challenging, he remained essentially optimistic about his work and its impact.

By the end of his first year in Vietnam, however, Entin’s outlook began to change. Early in December 1967, he did his best to explain the complexity of the war to his parents, saying that he saw no easy solutions to the problems faced by the Vietnamese people, and he wrote how discouraged he had become by the ineffectiveness of the U.S. government. When he learned later that month of a proposal to merge the government’s civilian programs, including USAID, OSA, and USIS, Entin was initially encouraged, but he quickly became disenchanted after learning that the military was to be placed in charge. Concerned about what might lie ahead, he entertained the idea of leaving.

Although the correspondence from 1968 is comparatively sparse, Entin’s letters document an eventful final few months in Vietnam. At the start of the year, Entin accompanied Ted Kennedy during a series of visits to hospitals and refugee camps, wondering all the time about the senator’s motivations for touring the Vietnamese provinces. His suspicions turned darker a few week later when the Tet Offensive broke over the cities and countryside. Even though he was not in the country during the attacks, Entin returned shortly after to witness the immediate aftermath, dedicating an entire letter to the tragedy that befell the former Imperial City of Hue. He criticized the inaccurate reporting on the campaign and the willingness of the American military, politicians, and media to maintain the illusion that progress was being made.

Collection inventory
Diary
1966 July-Sept
Box 1: 1
Essays
1997-2015
Box 1: 2
Letters
1966 July-Dec
Box 1: 3
Letters
1967 Jan-Nov
Box 1: 4
Letters
1968 Jan-Apr
Box 1: 5
Reports and Correspondence
1966-1967
Box 1: 6
Reports and Correspondence
1967-1968
Box 1: 7
Reports and Correspondence
1968
Box 1: 8
Photographs: Vietnam
ca.1967
Box 1: 9

Photographs not taken by Entin, but likely take by a photographer hired by the U.S. government.

Photographs: Vietnam
ca.1967
Box 1: 10

Photographs not taken by Entin, but likely take by a photographer hired by the U.S. government.

Photographs: Vietnam
ca.1967
Box 1: 11

Photographs not taken by Entin, but likely take by a photographer hired by the U.S. government.

Photographs: Vietnam
ca.1967
Box 1: 12

Photographs not taken by Entin, but likely take by a photographer hired by the U.S. government.

Photographs: Vietnam
ca.1967
Box 1: 13

Photographs not taken by Entin, but likely take by a photographer hired by the U.S. government.

Photographs: Vietnam
ca.1967
Box 1: 14

Photographs not taken by Entin, but likely take by a photographer hired by the U.S. government.

Photographs: Vietnam
1967
Box 1: 15

Photographs not taken by Entin, but likely take by a photographer hired by the U.S. government.

Photographs: Vietnam
ca.1967
Box 1: 16

Photographs not taken by Entin, but likely take by a photographer hired by the U.S. government.

Photographs: Vietnam
ca.1967
Box 1: 17

Photographs not taken by Entin, but likely take by a photographer hired by the U.S. government.

Slides: Quang Ngai, Vietnam
ca.1967
Box 1: 18

Slides taken by Entin.

Slides: Quang Ngai, Vietnam
ca.1967
Box 1: 19

Slides taken by Entin.

Slides: Quang Ngai, Vietnam
ca.1967
Box 1: 20

Slides taken by Entin.

Slides: Hue, Vietnam
1967-1968
Box 1: 21

Slides taken by Entin.

Slides: Danang, Vietnam
1967 Feb
Box 1: 22

Slides taken by Entin.

Slides: Saigon, Vietnam
1966-1968
Box 1: 23

Slides taken by Entin.

Administrative information
Provenance

Acquired from David Entin, 2015.

Processing Information

Processed by Rachel Purington, 2016.

Copyright and Use (More informationConnect to publication information)

Cite as: David Entin Papers (MS 876). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Subjects

Economic assistance, American--VietnamTechnical assistance, American--VietnamUnited States. Agency for International DevelopmentVietnam War, 1961-1975--Children--PhotographsVietnam War, 1961-1975--Civilian reliefVietnam War, 1961-1975--Personal narratives

Contributors

Entin, David Hudson

Types of material

Color slidesPhotographsSlides (Photographs)

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