Oral history interview with Arthur, 1980


Arthur (Interviewee)
Joseph, Herman, 1931- (Interviewer)
Oral history interview with Arthur, 1980
Other Titles
Reminiscences of Arthur, 1980; Oral history of Arthur, 1980
Arthur begins the interview by discussing his familial life and Harlem in the years through the Great Depression. He describes starting as young employee of supermarkets and eventually became a manager. He shares his introduction to drugs, bootlegging in Harlem, his initial use of heroin at the age of twenty-one, and his changes in drug use throughout his lifetime. During World War II, many drug us ers were not able to access heroin any longer, and Arthur recalls how people were withdrawing in the streets. Arthur describes his service in the U.S. Navy, including drug use on Navy ships, a stop in Indonesia, and his incarceration in Germany. Arthur shares the realities of balancing "honest" work, drug dealing, and drug use and how it impacted not only his life but the life of the people around him. He describes how one would obtain needles for injection, find quality heroin, and survive during times without access. Arthur reflects on dealing to jazz musicians and entertainers, dealing to sex workers, and how he would buy off the police during the 1950s-1960s. Arthur shares that at the time of this interview, he is retired, a passionate reader, and maintaining using methadone
Collection Name
Addicts Who Survived oral history collection
Drug addicts--United States; Drug dealers--United States; Drug traffic--History--20th century.--United States; Heroin abuse--History--20th century.--United States; Soldiers--Drug use--United States; Prostitution--History--20th century.--United States
oral histories
Physical Description
117 pages
Note (Biographical)
Arthur was born in Harlem on May 8th, 1914. A middle child with four siblings, Arthur's family was middle class until Great Depression of the 1930s. After graduating from high school, Arthur worked in grocery stores. As a teenage delivery boy he start ed smoking marijuana and was introduced to alcohol. By the age of twenty-one, Arthur began using heroin. In 1937, he was arrested for the first time for illegal possession. By 1945 Arthur's common-law wife passed away, and he began to struggle with suicidal ideations. In 1950, Arthur volunteered for the Navy, and traveled around the world. He continued his drug use on the ship and was discharged in 1951 due to a conviction in Germany. In the 1950s-1960s, Arthur sold drugs in New York City. In 1968, he began methadone treatment. Arthur was interviewed for the project that led to the book Addicts Who Survived. The name is likely a pseudonym for the project
Arthur was interviewed for the project that led to the book Addicts Who Survived. The name is likely a pseudonym for the project
Interviewed by Herman Joseph on October 30, 1980
Note (Provenance)
David Courtwright, Herman Joseph, and Don Des Jarlais, Gift, 1988
Library Location
Columbia Center for Oral History, Columbia University
Browse Location’s Digital Content
Catalog Record
Also In
Oral History Archives at Columbia
Time-Based Media
Time-Based Media
Persistent URL
Related URLs
Available digital content for this interview.