Andrew Berman was born March 17, 1947 in Queens, New York to parents sympathetic to Leftist politics. He attended Francis Lewis High School and then enrolled at Queens College in 1963 at age 16, graduating in 1967 with a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Already interested in socialism, peace, social justice and civil rights, Mr. Berman immediately became involved in social activism and political activity on the Queens College campus. As a freshman in fall 1963, he joined the Queens College and South Jamaica, Queens chapters of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Mr. Berman was recruited for the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project in 1964, but did not meet the minimum age requirement; instead he volunteered on campus, leafleting and recruiting students. In 1964, Mr. Berman participated in the CORE sit-in at the U.S. Government Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair where he was arrested and held overnight at the Hart’s Island jail.
Under the supervision of faculty advisor Gale Chevigny (and later Sol Resnick), Mr. Berman co-founded the student group Independent Students for a New Left with classmate and friend Howie Epstein in 1963. In 1964, the organization became an official chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), whose national organization was at the time still operating under the auspices of the League for Industrial Democracy. Queens College Students for a Democratic Society (QCSDS) quickly increased membership as the Vietnam War escalated, and in 1965 the group organized five chartered busses to bring students to the national SDS March on Washington to End the War in Vietnam. However, just before departure, the bus drivers, members of a conservative union, refused to drive the students. Undeterred, the students organized a large carpooling system, successfully transporting nearly every participant to the March.
Berman remained active in QCSDS for the duration of his time at Queens College, helping to organize a Vietnam Teach-In, a Fast for Peace in Vietnam, and protests of the college’s Dress Code policy, which prohibited female students from wearing pants. The group also built upon earlier efforts to challenge the College’s speaker policy, successfully bringing the outspoken Marxist-Communist activist Herbert Aptheker to address students.
From 1966-1967, Mr. Berman was involved with Freedom of the Press issues on campus. After silencing the fiery back-and-forth polemics between two student publications, The Crown and Rampart, by banning both, the college established The Phoenix. No other student publications were allowed to publish or distribute under the auspices of Queens College, a policy fiercely opposed by SDS members. In blatant defiance of the policy, Mr. Berman and other QCSDS members wrote and distributed The Activist newsletter. The College administration and the Student Association immediately threatened the group and its members with disciplinary probation, suspension and expulsion. At the urging of the Student Government president, QCSDS momentarily halted publication of The Activist, but promptly resumed, resulting in the group’s suspension as a student organization. It lost office space and funding, but continued to publish. Other student groups on campus rallied around their First Amendment rights, independently producing The Free Press, Graffitti!, and the Queens College Underground Press. Shortly thereafter, Queens College relaxed its publication policy.
Mr. Berman graduated from Queens College in 1967 and joined the Peace Corps, which sent him to Togo to teach high school mathematics in French for two years. Upon his return to the United States, he continued to work in the anti-war movement with the Committee of Returned Volunteers and the Liberation News Service through the end of the s1960s. He also joined the Venceremos Brigade, travelling with five hundred other volunteers to cut sugarcane in Cuba in protest of the U.S. trade embargo.
In 1971, Mr. Berman enlisted in the U.S. Army in an effort to support anti-Vietnam War soldiers and to protest U.S. foreign policy and imperialist intervention from within the military itself. From 1971-1973, he was deployed to bases in the American South and Europe, narrowly avoiding deployment to Vietnam. The U.S. Army discovered his anti-war politics and transferred him from Germany to Fort Polk, Louisiana, where he was unable to find sympathetic anti-war civilians. With the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, Mr. Berman was honorably discharged.
After relocating to Chicago, Mr. Berman worked as a software developer for Bell Labs and continued his political work after-hours, working toward the impeachment of President Nixon, protesting President Reagan and the Contra War, organizing with Veterans for Peace, and denouncing the U.S. war in Afghanistan. He has retired to Minnesota where he currently volunteers teaching GED mathematics classes to immigrants. He is married and has a daughter.
The Andrew Berman Collection consists largely of correspondence, newspaper clippings, banned student publications, and propaganda and organizational papers documenting Mr. Berman’s involvement in the Queens College chapter of Students for a Democratic Society during the mid to late 1960s.
The Andrew Berman Collection is comprised of two series, the first having two subseries:
Series I: Queens College Students for a Democratic Society
Subseries A: Administrative Files
Subseries B: Campaigns
Collection is open for research. Staff may restrict access at its discretion on the basis of physical condition.
The Andrew Berman Collection is the property of the Queens College Libraries. All intellectual rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assignees. Queens College assumes no responsibility for the infringement of copyrights held by the original authors, creators, or producers of materials.
Aptheker, Herbert, 1913-2003
Congress of Racial Equality
Freedom of the press
Queens (New York, N.Y.)
Queens College (New York, N.Y.)
Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements--United States
item, date (if known), folder, box, Andrew Berman Collection, Department of Special Collections and Archives, Queens College, City University of New York.
Donated by Andrew Berman in 2009.