Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Joseph Swan and Bernice Fossum

Transcript (PDF)


Titles Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Joseph Swan and Bernice Fossum
Description BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Joe Swan was born at the family homestead near Galva, North Dakota, in 1914. He spent part of his childhood in Freeborn, Minnesota, but graduated from high school in Madison, South Dakota. He went to college at the University of Iowa and studied art. In 1937 he moved to Minneapolis (without having earned his degree) to further his study of art. Having been radicalized by the Spanish Civil War, Swan joined the Communist Party in Minneapolis. He worked for the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project, and was a member of the Artists' Union. When the United States entered the Second World War, he enlisted in the Air Force in order to learn how to fly airplanes. He left Minnesota at that point (1942) and did not return. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Swan tells of his activities in support of labor union struggles through benefits, free artwork, and strike support. He discusses the grievances which led to the formation of the Artists' Union; his participation in the Minneapolis Theatre Union's productions; tension with the Socialist Workers' Party; and the personalities and politics of various artists he knew. Fossum and Swan reminisce about their lives as struggling artists in Minneapolis in the 1930s, and reflect on some of the Communist Party lines and activities. The interview is rich in personal information about many artists in the leftist/WPA circle. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: Swan and Fossum paint an appealing and humorous picture of their lives during this time. This interview took place after a longer interview between Salerno and Fossum, and she refers to people and incidents which were covered in the earlier interview. There is a lot of background noise on the tape. Not all of the spellings of the names could be verified.
Quantity 1.5 hours sound cassette
31 pages transcript
Format Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
Measurements 01:28:17 running time
Creation Interviewee: Fossum, Bernice
Interviewee: Swan, Joseph
Interviewer: Salerno, Salvatore
Made in: San Francisco, San Francisco County, California, United States
Dates Creation: 02/16/1988
Holding Type Oral History - Interview
Identifiers OH 30 (Library Call Number)
AV1990.228.39 (Accession Number)
More Info MHS Library Catalog
Related Collections Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project'


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