MG 241 - Harrisburg Defense Committee Collection

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Scope and Content

The collection contains manuscript materials, photographs, pen and ink drawings, and posters primarily having to do with the trial of the Harrisburg "7," the protest against the Vietnam War and a mass demonstration against war and repression held in Harrisburg in 1972.

Contains "The Pilgrimage Manual," a source kit on organizing by members of the Defense Committee and research papers on mines and bombs and Vietnam; trial papers including a letter from Philip Berrigan to Judge Herman asking to represent himself in court, the Indictment with the Grand Jury charges, the list of jurors, press information with material on Boyd Douglas, Jr., a witness testifying for the government, copies and transcripts of the letters written by Father Berrigan while in prison in Lewisburg to Sister Elizabeth McAlister, news releases by the Defense Committee concerning the trial from January to March, 1972, newspaper accounts mostly from the Harrisburg Independent Press, a copy of the Holy Cross Quarterly entitled, "The Burden of the Berrigans," and other reprints; flyers and news releases concerning the demonstration against war and repression to be held in Harrisburg, April 1, 1972; and miscellaneous materials including the petition demanding bail for Angela Davis and a statement of Dan Berrigan issued in September, 1971.

Contains 22 photographs of the rally, the protesters, speakers, some of the defendants in the trial, and other scenes taken during the demonstration. The photos were copies made from the originals by John Serbell; the Historical Society does not own the originals nor the rights to reprint them. Includes several other photos as well.

Also contains 89 pen and ink drawings done by Toni Truesdale at the trial and 10 posters used by the protesters against war.


The papers of the Defense Committee concern primarily the trial of the "Harrisburg 8," or "7" after the elimination of Ted Glick, and several items about Angela Davis. Events leading to the trial in 1972 began in November, 1970, when J. Edgar Hoover announced that Philip and Daniel Berrigan, two prominent antiwar Catholic priests, were the leaders of an anarchist group that was planning to kidnap a highly-placed government official (later papers identified the person as Henry Kissinger), and blow up underground electrical conduits and steam pipes serving federal buildings in Washington, D. C. to disrupt the government. The trial began the last week of January, 1972, and was regarded as one of the most important political trials of our times. The outcome of the trial was anti-climactic: Father Berrigan and Sister McAlister were found guilty of communication through the writing of letters, and the verdict of the other defendants was never decided. It was a hung jury; the government had the option of trying them again, but never did.

Date(s): 1971-1972

Extent: 3 boxes, 219 enclosures