Mitch Snyder papers
Collection Scope and Content
The collection is divided into three series based on chronology. The first and largest series is the material related to Snyder's time in federal prison, 1970-72. The series includes correspondence, legal documents, newspaper articles, and an undated diary kept by Snyder. Using the material within this series a researcher may read Snyder's thoughts about the social protest movement he encountered and embraced while in prison. The letters and notes written by his sister, Roberta Peters, represent her attempts to have Mitch transferred back to the Danbury facility after the prison system moved him following a hunger strike. She also worked for Snyder's release and wrote letters to members of the parole board and sought advice from people in organizations dedicated to improving the lives of prisoners. The series has material that details Snyder's first hunger strike, a method he used during his work for the rights of the homeless in Washington, D.C.
The second series relates to Snyder's life after prison and specifically his work with the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV). CCNV began as an anti-war and education group and became an organization working as an advocate for homeless people. This series has a smaller amount of material and represents a sampling of the issues Snyder promoted and the methods he used to advance the cause of eradicating homelessness in Washington, D.C. As in the first series, this series has correspondence from Snyder to his mother, Beatrice. These letters combined with the letters Snyder sent his mother while in prison may allow a researcher to observe his activities for an extended period of time and gain insight into the motivations for his work.
The third series is a catch-all for material related to Snyder and his family, but not related to his time in prison or his advocacy for the homeless. Documents include a letter to Snyder from the Selective Service regarding his failure to report in 1964, a 1973 action for divorce initiated by his wife, and photographs of his wedding day, his children, and Daniel Berrigan.
- Snyder, Mitch (Person)
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Historical or Biographical Note
Mitch Snyder (1943-1990) is known mostly for his work advocating for the rights of homeless people and specifically as a leader of the Community For Creative Non-Violence (CCNV). CCNV began in the early 1970s as an anti-war group and evolved into an organization that provides food, clothing, shelter, and educational programs for the poor and homeless. Towards his goal of improving the lives of homeless people, Snyder employed non-violent confrontational protest tactics aimed at shocking the public and drawing media attention to this cause. These protest tactics included building occupation, construction of a tent city in Lafayette Park, vandalism, and hunger strikes.
During his time in prison, Snyder converted to Christianity and fully embrace a radical Catholic form of social protest. Snyder served two years in federal prison, 1970-1972, for violating the Dyer Act. While in prison at the Danbury Correctional facility in Danbury Connecticut, he met the radical anti-war Catholic Priest Daniel Berrigan and like Berrigan, Snyder became an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and the treatment of prisoners in federal correctional facilities. His protest methods included prisoner work strikes and hunger strikes. The political and spiritual conversion he experienced in prison shaped his life.
In 1973, Snyder came to Washington, D.C. to work with CCNV as an anti-war protester. As the Vietnam war ended, CCNV began to administer a soup kitchen, two hospitality houses, and a medical clinic. The goal of CCNV became ". . . the task of securing adequate, accessible space, offered in an atmosphere of reasonable dignity, for every man, woman, and child in need of shelter." In 1978, Snyder began a hunger strike in an attempt to convince the Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown to divert a portion of the money parishioners raised for building renovations to support the establishment of a homeless shelter. The Church did not make the commitment, but Snyder's hunger strike received media attention and opened the debate on the issue of homelessness in America. During his lifetime Snyder would participate in numerous hunger strikes. Snyder's celebrity as the leading advocate for the homeless reached its zenith in 1986 when Martin Sheen played him in the movie "Samaritan, The Mitch Snyder Story." Mitch Snyder died by suicide in 1990.
3.5 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
Mitch Snyder (1943-1990) was a radical Catholic, advocate for the rights of homeless people, and leader of the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) in Washington, D.C. CCNV began as an anti-war group and became an advocacy group for the homeless. The largest part of the collection, Series I, 1970-1972, concerns Snyder’s prison term during which he became a radical Catholic and non-violent social activist. Contains a diary kept by Snyder, correspondence with his sister Roberta Peters and his mother Beatrice Snyder, and Peters’ correspondence with parole officials on his behalf. Series II has a few items to show his CCNV activities: correspondence, flyers, articles, legal documents. Series III has a few family papers and photographs.
Organized into three series: Prison, Community for Creative Non-Violence, and Personal and family materials.
Unknown at this time
Reparative Description Project
This finding aid was revised in 2022 to address offensive and outdated terminology related to suicide in the biographical note. The terminology was deemed not necessary for description and since it was written by previous staff the note was edited to remove the offensive terms and rewritten using current acceptable terminology that provides the same message. Previous versions of this finding aid are available. Finding aid before revision in November 2022 for the Mitch Snyder papers
- Community for Creative Non-violence (Washington, D.C.)
- Diaries Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Homeless persons Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Photographs Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Snyder, Mitch
- Washington (D.C.) Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Guide to the Mitch Snyder papers, 1970-1991
- Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English
Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository
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