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Guide to the Papers of David Thoreau Wieck and Diva Agnostinelli TAM 227

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630
tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Natasha Simon

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 03, 2018
Finding aid is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Historical/Biographical Note

David Thoreau Wieck was born in St. Louis, Missouri on December 13, 1921. Named after David Henry Thoreau, he was the son of Edward A. and Agnes Burns Wieck. His mother, known as the Mother Jones of Illinois, was the daughter of a miner. She was a writer in the middle and late 1920s for the weekly journal Illinois Miner, and after training with the Women's Trade Union League, she worked as an organizer for the Progressive Miners of America. His father was a self-educated coal miner and writer. In 1934 the Wiecks moved to New York City when Edward Wieck was hired as a research associate for the Russell Sage Foundation's Industrial Studies Department. David Wieck joined the Young Communist League in 1935, but by 1936 had become, in his own words, a "dissident bolshevik," much more enamored of the anarcho-syndicalists then fighting in Spain.

He enrolled at Columbia University in 1937 and graduated in 1941. He subsequently did post-graduate work toward a masters degree with Leo Wolman, writing an unpublished study of the process of centralization in the United Mine Workers of America. Registering as a conscientious objector following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he left New York City in early 1943 pending his appeal and was arrested in New Orleans for not notifying his draft board of his "change of address." In July 1943 Wieck began serving a three-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut for refusing induction into the United States Armed Services. As prisoner #2674 Wieck was involved in numerous actions protesting racial segregation in the federal prison system.

He was released from prison in 1946 and began a life-long marriage/life-partnership with Diva Agostinelli, herself the daughter of an anarchist coal miner from Pennsylvania. In the late 1940s and early 1950s Wieck wrote for the anarchist publications Why?,  Liberation, and  Resistance. He enrolled again at Columbia University in 1956 and received a Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1961, apparently concentrating on aesthetics. He began teaching philosophy at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1960, retiring as Professor Emeritus in 1987. During his tenure he published numerous articles and reviews in professional journals and the radical press both in the United States and abroad. He was the author of a biography of his mother,  Woman from Spillertown: A Memoir of Agnes Burns Wieck (Southern Illinois Press, 1992). Afflicted with Alzheimers Disease, Wieck died on July 1, 1997.