This Day in History

Nov. 6, 1965: Draft Card Protest

Time Periods: People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: Democracy & Citizenship, Imperialism, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements

On Nov 6. 1965, five men (Thomas Cornell, Marc Paul Edelman, Roy Lisker, David McReynolds, and James Wilson) burned their draft cards at the Union Square Pavilion in New York City.

Draft Card Burning 1965

Thomas Cornell, Marc Paul Edelman (now Marco Polo), Roy Lisker, David McReynolds and James Wilson. On the right is 80-year-old pacifist A. J. Muste, whose work connected the labor, anti-war, and Civil Rights Movements. Photo by Neil Haworth. Source: War Resisters League.

This was an act of solidarity with Catholic pacifist David Miller who became the first U.S. war protester to publicly burn his draft card on Oct. 15, 1965, in direct violation of a recently passed federal law forbidding such acts. FBI agents later arrested Miller; he was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to two years in prison.

In a PBS documentary, The Draft, McReynolds said,

They were saying it is illegal to burn your draft card. They made it a federal offense if you burn your draft card. And basically, we said, ‘[Bleep] that. The war is a profoundly evil thing going on day after day.

On the right in the photo above is 80-year-old pacifist A. J. Muste, whose work connected the labor, anti-war, and Civil Rights Movements.

Learn more about resistance to the draft in the 2020 film, “The Boys Who Said No.”

The Boys Who Said NO! Trailer from Boys Who Said NO! on Vimeo.

Below are lessons and other resources for teaching about the Vietnam War.