Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hispanic congregation shares MLK event podium with Rev. James Lawson

Lawson jailed repeatedly for nonviolent lawbreaking; expelled by Vanderbilt Divinity School in 1960; King called him "the leading nonviolence theorist in the world"

The Tennessean reports that the choir of a local Hispanic congregation will share the podium with the Rev. James Lawson in a church service today to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"The service will include a children's choir, as well as the choirs of Primera Iglesia Metodista Hispana, a Nashville Hispanic congregation, and Woodbine United Methodist Church."

"Services at Gordon Memorial UMC begin at 4 p.m. and are open to the public. The church is at 2334 Herman St."

"Lawson's sermon is one of a series of events marking Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the holiday honoring the legacy of the civil rights leader killed in Memphis in 1968."

Before he came to Nashville, James Lawson was a renowned pacifist activist and minister who had spent 13 months in jail for refusing the Korean draft and had spent three years ministering in India. He moved to Nashville in 1958 at the personal request of Dr. King for the purpose of assisting in the civil rights movement. Lawson enrolled in the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University and in turn educated many civil rights advocates, including the organizers of the sit-ins in Nashville's downtown lunch counters.

On February 27, 1960, dozens of students participating in the sit-ins were arrested for disorderly conduct after they were attacked by local teenagers. The teenage attackers were let go.

Agitators attack a sit-in demonstrator, February 27, 1960
Photo by Vic Cooley, Nashville Banner
source: Civil Rights Collection of the Nashville Public Library

Lawson subsequently was arrested for his role in training the organizers. Mayor Ben West echoed the attitude of the time - "As God is my helper, the law is going to be enforced in Nashville" (source: Time Magazine), but he also recognized that lunch counters should be desegregated. Businesses changed their discriminatory practices upon hearing of West's position.

James Lawson is arrested for his role in student sit-ins, March 3, 1960
Photo by Vic Cooley, Nashville Banner
source: Civil Rights Collection of the Nashville Public Library

Lawson was also expelled from Vanderbilt for his role in the civil disobedience, and a number of professors and officials resigned in protest of his explusion. One year ago, Vanderbilt named Lawson its Distinguished University Professor for the 2006-07 academic year and its 2005 Distinguished Alumnus (press release here). From Vanderbilt's press release: "As a young man, [Lawson] studied the Gandhian movement in India before becoming an integral part of the civil rights movement. Lawson was dubbed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as 'the leading nonviolence theorist in the world.'"

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...