new book illuminates the catonsville nine, religious activists who burned draft files

by Tim Phillips

The University of Wisconsin (UW) announced yesterday that Oxford University Press recently published a book about the Catonsville 9, written by UW instructor Shawn Peters. The Catonsville 9 were Catholic activists who, on May 17, 1968, stole more than 370 Selective Service records from a military draft board and burned them in the parking lot using homemade napalm. They did not attempt to avoid arrest.

A jury found them guilty and their appeal was denied. On the appointed date for their surrender to federal marshals, however, four of them did not report, opting to continue their resistance by becoming fugitives. Three were underground for weeks or months before being apprehended, but one stayed underground for almost ten years.

The book, The Catonsville Nine: A Story of Faith and Resistance in the Vietnam Era, is a group biography. The author describes each defendant’s background, their draft board raid and joint federal trial, and their subsequent methods of protest (e.g., as fugitives, in prison, or afterward). The group included Mary Moylan, John Hogan, Brother David Darst, Marjorie and Tom Melville, George Mische, Philip and Daniel Berrigan, and Tom Lewis.