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Kent Minnault
Peter Coyote
Goldhaft and Berg

The Digger Oral History Project

I've met a lot of interesting people doing this Web archive. One day, I received a feedback message from Etan Ben-Ami. It turns out that he and I share a number of parallel life paths, including starting an oral history of the Diggers. Etan was a youngster in the late 60s, so by the time he heard about the Diggers, they were already history. Except they weren't, in the sense that the history of the hippies, the Haight, the Diggers hasn't been written. Why? Perhaps in some parallel universe the Summer of Love never ended. To write a history about something assumes that it is over. But for everyone who believes in Digger Free, the history is still playing out, stretching back to Winstanley, Everard and the gang that planted those seeds in our collective imagination 300+ years ago. Perhaps the best history we can do is to collect the stories, and retell the tales that inspired us. This is not the history practiced in the Academy, this is People's History.

Etan Ben-Ami wrote that:

Roughly ten years ago, I took a month off from work to interview people for what was intended to be a book length oral history of the Diggers. I'm not a journalist and the intent was not to launch any kind of career, &c. I'd just read too much junk history re the Sixties, hippies, the Haight ... you name it. They all seemed to be saying that freedom was a juvenile activity that most people grew out of — basically a political revision of not only the past but the present. I wanted to try to work against that. The interviews went well, but I burned out doing the huge amount of transcribing and editing that it takes to turn that amount of material into a book. (I also went from part-time or temporary work to full-time and permanent, got married, moved to Detroit, a few other things...) So anyhow, I've got a large semi-abandoned work sitting on disk and on paper. I can't distribute it or any part of it without the consent of the person interviewed — which may be really tough in some cases, since I've lost touch with people.

Etan is worried that people are upset that he hasn't finished this project. But, Etan, I don't think anyone can really be upset, especially if you agree with my premise that the Digger history really cannot be written. All we can do is preserve the stories that our elders told us gathered around the proverbial communal fire, and pass this collected body of knowledge onto the next generation.

So, Etan, thank you for this project. Know that you have a home for your transcripts, and they will be cherished.

Index of Etan Ben-Ami's Oral Histories

Interview of Peter Coyote, Mill Valley, 1989.

Index of Eric Noble's Oral Histories

Interview of Judy Goldhaft and Peter Berg, San Francisco, 1982.

 
 
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