May 25, 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of the Chicago 15 peace action. On that weekend in 1969, fifteen peace activists from the Midwest, East Coast, and Canada entered the Selective Service Headquarters located at 2355 West 63rd Street, removing “50 sacks of files” and burning more than 40,000 draft records behind the building (Plain Rapper, July 1969). The group aimed to confront American militarism and racism by destroying Selective Service records from Chicago’s South Side, therefore disrupting the disproportionate flow of African Americans to the Vietnam War effort. After burning draft records, the activists remained on site awaiting arrest. Subsequently, those involved received prison sentences ranging from five to ten years – more for those who became fugitives after the initial arrest. The Chicago 15 peace action follows numerous similar actions around the country beginning in 1967, but the scope of the disruption/destruction is potentially unparalleled (Hit & Stay).
DePaul Special Collections and Archives is honored to preserve and provide access to materials from two members of the Chicago 15 action: Bill Durkin and Nick Riddell. Items related to the Chicago 15 action are not easily found at the institutional level, so we’re thrilled to make them available and share this important piece of local history! Durkin’s collection features correspondence he received while in jail and prison following his arrest. The letters include messages of support, commentary on radical politics, and information about legal aspects of the Chicago 15 action. Riddell’s papers include biographical items such as photographs, documents, prison writings, and other ephemera from different points in his life. Significantly, Riddell’s photos provide a unique glimpse at his life before peace activism – from childhood, to military service, and then priesthood. Durkin and Riddell’s collections can be found in the Collection on Peace Activism.
Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Chicago 15 peace action, there will be an exhibit of materials on the 3rd floor of the John T. Richardson Library in a case outside of Room 314. All are welcome to view the exhibit during library open hours. To learn more about DePaul Special Collections and Archives, visit our webpage or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For instruction sessions with these or other Special Collections and Archives materials, please contact Morgen MacIntosh Hodgetts.