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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


1968 was a tumultuous year in American history. The United States government was in the middle of the Cold War and their involvement in Vietnam reached its highest level to date. Meanwhile, on the domestic front, the country was erupting in turmoil. Many American citizens engaged in protest against the government’s overseas efforts, and took to great lengths to resist the war effort. These protestors encompassed people from all walks life, students, clergy, professors, lawyers, and politicians. One of the strongest groups of this anti-war movement was religious. By May of 1968 one group of Catholics were so fed up with their lack of success in peaceful protests against the war, they decided to engage in an act of disobedience. May 17, 1968 nine Catholics walked into a Catonsville Selective Service office stole as many files as they could carry and burned them with homemade napalm. The public knew them as the Catonsville Nine. What ensued was more protest, a very public trial, much media attention, and a lasting legacy. The Catonsville Nine’s trial was five months later and produced a large amount of protests. Their criminal proceedings were very different from most, as the nine defendants attempted to appeal to consciousness. The action received plenty of media attention and became infested in the public mind with a theatrical play and motion picture. This action was a moral demonstration rooted in a Catholic pacifist rationale and their trial and media attention provided the vehicles they needed to spread the word of the failures of the American governmental policies.

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