Carl Wittman, son of Jeanette Freeman Wittman and Walter Wittman.
Carl Wittman lived the life of an organizer and he was pivotal in a number of movements. He grew up in Paramus NJ and went to Swarthmore College where he became involved in radical organizing, responding to racism and poverty in Cambridge, MD and later Chester, PA. He was a founder of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and a signator of the Port Huron Statement, setting out an agenda for young activists. After graduation he joined with Tom Hayden to do community organizing in Newark NJ. Later, he moved to San Francisco and in 1969, just before the Stonewall Uprising in NYC, he wrote the Gay Manifesto, a visionary document, then and now. With lover Allan Troxler, he was part of a gay “back to the land” movement in Wolf Creek, Oregon. With other rural gay men all over the US they founded the periodical RFD. Carl and Allan went on to transform English and Scottish Country Dancing with non-gendered, non-binary dances and new teaching methods. He was active in environmental causes in Oregon around logging issues and later was involved in fighting pollution in poor communities in Durham NC. He was part of an activist community in Durham. He died of AIDS in 1986.
About Organizing in Oregon
A note about the ERAP Newsletter which details the Newark project Carl was involved in: Newsletters at that time were mimeographed, which involved a stencil created by typing on it (without the ribbon) so that the ink could be pressed through the hole that the typewriter made. This particular newsletter also has wonderful graphics which were created by hand with a stylus, and at an advanced level, textures and shading.
RFD in mainstream usage stands for Rural Free Delivery, but one feature of the periodical Carl and Allan helped found is that the initials stood for different things each issue– in these first two issues, “Rustic Fairy Dreams” and “Reckless Fruit Delight.” RFD continues publication and the full archives can be found at https://www.rfdmag.org/back-issues.php
In the inaugural issue in Autumn 1974, Allan contributed graphics and an article about Mother Earth News’ refusal to put gay ads in its pages and a general critique of the magazine’s (and movement’s) homophobia. Carl wrote of his emotional reaction to Coming Home after an extended trip East and the devastating destruction to his beloved orchard and garden. In the second issue Winter 1974, Carl wrote more about practical struggles keeping the orchard alive, as well as “Toward a Gay Tarot” interpreting the symbols through the lens of gay sexuality. Allan contributed a how-to on making wreaths, a musical piece, and a dance.
Carl (and at a different time, Allan) participated in English Country Dance at Swarthmore College but in Wolf Creek, Carl began to develop new concepts and teaching methods of ‘un-gendering’ the dances. He taught at Rogue Community College and choreographed dancing for the Shakespeare Festival. He went on to revolutionize English and Scottish Country Dance teaching completing a manual just before he died. Allan continued the teaching and researched the historical and social context for the dances.
Carl and Allan moved to Durham, NC to be closer to Allan’s Southern roots and family. Carl worked on issues of pollution affecting their poor neighborhood and also created a community project on gay and lesbian health. Carl’s response to the trial of ‘gay bashers’ who attacked a group of gay men is an excellent analysis of the homophobia, racism, and prejudices of the time.