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Daniel Berrigan papers

Identifier: MSS0098

Scope and Contents

The Daniel Berrigan papers document the work of Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit priest, social activist, poet, author, and playwright, from the 1980s through 2016. Dan’s writings and materials highlight his activities, commitment to peace and social justice issues, and show how his Catholic faith guided his response to these issues. Materials in this collection have been created and collected by Dan. Biographical materials include newspaper and magazine articles, interviews, and awards. The majority of this collection consists of correspondence written to Dan from family, friends, colleagues, organizations, and admirers from 1997 to 2016. Much of the correspondence invites Dan to participate in panels, give lectures, and lead retreats. Materials highlighting Dan's activities also include speeches, flyers for speaking commitments, and his personal desk calendars from 1978 to 2013. Besides speaking engagements, Dan communicated his thoughts on social and religious subjects through writing. The Daniel Berrigan Papers contains published and unpublished writings and poems by Dan, including multiple drafts of Job: And Death No Dominion. The collection also includes VHS tapes, CDs, and audiocassettes that feature Dan. While the materials are largely textual, other formats in the collection include artwork, photographs, plaques, and memorabilia.


  • 1941-2016
  • Majority of material found within 1997-2016


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical / Historical

Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit priest, social activist, poet, author, and playwright, was born on May 9, 1921 in Virginia, Minnesota. He was the fifth son born to Thomas Berrigan, radical socialist and labor organizer, and Frida Fromhardt. In 1926, the Berrigan family moved to Syracuse, New York. Dan joined the Jesuits when he graduated from high school in 1939 and was ordained as a Jesuit priest on June 29, 1952. He served as a professor of religion at LeMoyne College in Syracuse from 1957 to 1964. During this time, Dan became involved in social justice issues. He and his younger brother Philip Berrigan, a Josephite priest, wanted to join the Freedom Riders but were forbidden by their religious superiors.

Dan went on sabbatical in 1963, visiting Europe, the Soviet Union, and South Africa. In June 1964, the Society of Jesus reassigned Dan to New York City. There he served as editor of the monthly magazine Jesuit Missions. In the fall of 1965, Dan, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel, and Rev. Richard John Neuhaus founded what would become known as Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam (CALCAV). Due to Dan’s criticism of the Vietnam War, his superiors sent him to Latin America in February 1966 where he was introduced to liberation theology. In August 1967, Dan was hired as an instructor and chaplain at Cornell University. He was associate director of Cornell United Religious work (CURW) and popular among students.

On October 22, 1967 Dan participated in a Vietnam War protest outside the Pentagon and was arrested for the first time. In January 1968, the North Vietnamese government asked for representatives of the American peace movement to receive three prisoners of war. Dan and Boston University professor Howard Zinn flew to Hanoi and successfully mediating the soldiers’ return to the United States. After seeing the conditions on the ground in Vietnam and being asked by his brother to participate in a more extreme protest, Dan decided to join Phil and seven others in burning draft cards at the Catonsville, Maryland draft board on May 17, 1968. The group destroyed draft files by dousing them with homemade napalm. The Catonsville Nine federal trial began October 5, 1968 and lasted four days. The Baltimore County Circuit Judge ruled in March 1969 that the state of Baltimore also had the right to prosecute the Catonsville Nine, and this trial occurred in June 1969. After an appeal process that reached the Supreme Court, the members of the Catonsville Nine were charged with the destruction of U.S. property and sentenced in 1970.

Rather than turn themselves in to the authorities in April 1970, the Catonsville members resisted arrest and evaded police capture. Dan and Phil were placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. While Phil was caught after two weeks underground, Dan evaded the FBI for four months by staying with a network of friends. During this time, Dan gave interviews and appeared at events to the FBI’s embarrassment. He was finally captured at author and theologian William Stringfellow’s cottage on Block Island, Rhode Island in August 1970. After his arrest he served two years in the federal penitentiary in Danbury, Connecticut.

In 1969, Dan wrote the play The Trial of the Catonsville Nine based partially on trial transcripts. The play opened at Good Shepherd-Faith Church in New York on January 31, 1971 and at the Lyceum Theatre in New York on June 2, 1971. The play was made into a movie in 1972.

On September 9, 1980, Dan participated in the first Plowshares action with Phil and six other peace activists. Known as the Plowshares Eight, they symbolically disarmed nuclear missiles and poured blood over files at the General Electric Nuclear Missile Facility in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. The subsequent trial was recreated by Emile de Antonio in the 1982 film, In The King of Prussia, in which the Plowshares activists played themselves. Though Dan had not directly been involved in any other Plowshares actions since the 1980 Plowshares Eight action, he was involved in many other peace protests, led lectures and retreats across the country, and wrote about his experiences and beliefs. He protested wars in Yugoslavia and Kosovo in the 1990s and frequently spoke out against the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s.

Dan was an author, poet, and teacher with an extensive list of published works, including America is Hard to Find (1972), And the Risen Bread: Poems 1954-1997 (1998), and To Dwell in Peace: An Autobiography (2007). He served as a visiting professor at many colleges, from the 1980s to 2000. Dan taught courses at DePaul University in 1994 and 1999 and participated in many campus lectures and conferences throughout the 1980s-2000s. Although Dan previously had avoided long-term teaching jobs for fear it would have compromised his ability to participate in peace actions, he settled at Fordham University in New York City in 2000, where he served as professor and poet-in-residence.

Dan resided in the Westside Jesuit Community in New York City beginning in 1975. With the support of the Westside Jesuit Community, family, peace activists, and artists, Dan was able to teach, write, and protest for his beliefs. Inspired by Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, Dan lived according to his belief in God and nonviolence, and continued to denounce the U.S. government’s human rights violations. He preached the necessity of equality and peace in our society. He was a powerful force in the peace movement, the literary world, and the Catholic Left for decades. On April 30th, 2016 Dan died at the Jesuit residence in Murray-Weigel Hall at Fordham University.


29 Linear Feet (60 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Daniel Berrigan papers are arranged into eleven series, thirteen subseries, and eleven sub-subseries: 1. Biographical; 2. Speeches and Events; 3. Writings; 4. Writings by Other Authors; 5. Correspondence; 5.1. Berrigan Family; 5.2. Surname and Organization; 5.3. First Name; 5.4. Email; 5.5. Outgoing; 6. Publications from Block Island Property; 7. Audio-Visual; 8. Oversize; 9. November 2013 Addition; 9.1 Biographical Files; 9.2 Personal Files; 9.2.1 Courses and Book Lists; 9.2.2 Ellul; 9.2.3 Nuclear; 9.2.4 Prisons; 9.2.5 Trial [Plowshares 8]; 9.2.6 Vietnam [Buddhists]; 9.2.7 [Vietnam] Buddhists; 9.3 Writings; 9.4 Publications; 9.5 Berrigan Family Files; 9.6 Correspondence; 9.7 People Files; 9.8 Oversize; 9.8.1 Artworks; 9.8.2 Awards; 9.8.3 Banner; 9.8.4 Calendars; 10. December 2010 Addition; 11. October 2015 Addition; 12. November 2015 Addition; 13. May 2016 Addition

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired from Loome Theological Booksellers, Accession 2000.05; 2000.26; 2001.15; Donated by Daniel Berrigan, Accession 2000.48; 2001.55; 2002.20; 2003.18; 2004.11; 2005.13; 2006.20; 2007.07; 2009.02; Transferred by John Dear, Accession 2010.32; 2014.063; 2015.107; 2016.19; 2016.22

Related Materials

Jerome C. Berrigan papers; Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister papers; the Berrigan Library; Elmer Maas Plowshares collection; Rev. John McNamee papers; the Murray Polner papers; Collection on Peace Activism; Hit & Stay (documentary) SpC. 959.7043 H674t2014

Processing Information

C. Faison 2013; D Potts 2015

Guide to Daniel Berrigan papers
C. Faison 2013; D Potts 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the DePaul Special Collections and Archives Repository

John T. Richardson Library
2350 N. Kenmore Ave.
Room 314
Chicago Illinois 60614