Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965

By Davis W. Houck; David E. Dixon | Go to book overview

§49 Reverend James Lawson

James Lawson, one of the most important figures in the entire civil rights movement, was born on September 22, 1928 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He grew up in Massillon, Ohio and attended Baldwin-Wallace College. A life-long pacifist, Lawson spent 14 months in jail for refusing the draft in 1951. Upon his release from prison, he traveled to a Methodist missionary organization in Nagpur, India where he studied Gandhi’s Satyagraha, a method of nonviolent resistance. Back in the United States in 1955, Lawson entered the Graduate School of Theology at Oberlin College. It was at Oberlin that Lawson met Martin Luther King, who urged him to come south and help in the burgeoning civil rights movement.

Under the auspices of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Lawson moved to Nashville and in 1959 began conducting workshops in nonviolent resistance to local college students. That fall, he and the students began “test runs” of resistance tactics at various Nashville stores. His students included such civil rights luminaries as Bernard Lafayette, John Lewis, Marion Barry, Diane Nash, and James Bevel. In late February of 1960, the Nashville sit-ins began in earnest, earning Lawson arrest and eventual expulsion from Vanderbilt Divinity School.

In 1962 Lawson became pastor of Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Six years later, it was Reverend Lawson who invited Dr. King to Memphis to help dramatize the sanitation workers’ struggle against the city. King was murdered in Memphis on April 4. In 1974 Lawson moved west to become pastor at Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, where he still conducts workshops in nonviolence. In 1996 Vanderbilt Divinity School honored Lawson with its Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Lawson is notoriously abstemious with his speeches. As a consequence, very few have ever been published. In this speech, given at the apogee of the student sit-in movement of 1960 at Shaw University, Lawson offers the movement a Christian foundation for its existence and warrants for action. Civil rights historians recognize that the Shaw conference was the birth of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)—a group that would become the avant-garde of the freedom movement. The conference was coordinated by Ella Baker, a Shaw graduate and a former Executive Director of the Southern Christian Leadership

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Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement v
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xv
  • Introduction 1
  • 1954 17
  • 1954 - §1 Dr. Mordecai Wyatt Johnson 19
  • §2 Charles P. Bowles 31
  • §3 Reverend A. Powell Davies 36
  • §4 Frank P. Graham 42
  • §5 Mary Mcleod Bethune 49
  • §6 Dr. Benjamin E. Mays 55
  • §7 Dr. J. R. Brokhoff 65
  • §8 William Lloyd Imes 71
  • 1955 77
  • 1955 - §9 Sarah Patton Boyle 79
  • §10 Sarah Patton Boyle 82
  • §11 William Lloyd Imes 87
  • §12 Dr. James Hudson 93
  • §13 Mary Mcleod Bethune 96
  • §14 Roy Wilkins 99
  • §15 Albert D’orlando 107
  • §16 Dr. T. R. M. Howard 116
  • §17 Mamie Till-Bradley 131
  • §18 Reverend Robbins Ralph 145
  • §19 Sarah Patton Boyle 150
  • 1956 155
  • 1956 - §20 Branch Rickey 157
  • §21 Reverend Paul N. Carnes 166
  • §22 Dr. J. R. Brokhoff 172
  • §23 Horace Mann Bond 178
  • §24 Dr. James Hudson 187
  • §25 Dr. T. R. M. Howard 192
  • §26 Roy Wilkins 196
  • §27 Reverend D. Perry Ginn 202
  • 1957 207
  • 1957 - §28 P. D. East 209
  • §29 Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr 216
  • §30 Reverend James A. Pike 224
  • §31 Dr. Mordecai Wyatt Johnson 239
  • §32 Representative Adam Clayton Powell 243
  • §33 A. Philip Randolph 246
  • §34 Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth 250
  • §35 Dr. Channing H. Tobias 256
  • §36 Shad Polier 266
  • §37 Reverend Marion A. Boggs 270
  • §38 Reverend A. Powell Davies 277
  • §39 Marion A. Wright 284
  • 1958 293
  • 1958 - §40 Reverend James R. Bullock 295
  • §41 Dr. J. R. Brokhoff 302
  • §42 Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth 308
  • 1959 313
  • 1959 - §43 Chester Bowles 315
  • §44 Rabbi Max D. Davidson 325
  • §45 Reverend Colbert S. Cartwright 327
  • §46 Reverend Carlos E. Martin 333
  • §47 Reverend Edward Hughes Pruden 340
  • 1960 345
  • 1960 - §48 Governor Leroy Collins 347
  • §49 Reverend James Lawson 356
  • §50 Everett Tilson 362
  • §51 Dr. Benjamin E. Mays 368
  • §52 Dr. Frank P. Graham 377
  • §53 Reverend Edler Garnet Hawkins 382
  • §54 Reverend Will D. Campbell 385
  • §55 Leroy Collins 397
  • 1961 403
  • 1961 - §56 Dr. Haywood N. Hill 405
  • §57 Colbert S. Cartwright 408
  • §58 Reverend William O. Byrd 412
  • §59 Robert J. Mccracken 417
  • §60 Reverend Duncan Howlett 421
  • §61 Rev. Ralph David Abernathy 430
  • §62 Marion A. Wrigth 437
  • §63 James Mcbride Dabbs 445
  • 1962 455
  • 1962 - §64 Heslip “happy” Lee 457
  • §65 Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth 464
  • §66 Robert H. Walkup 468
  • §67 Robert H. Walkup 472
  • §68 Charles L. Stanford, Jr 476
  • §69 Reverend Duncan M. Gray, Jr 478
  • §70 Reverend George A. Chauncey 483
  • §71 James Mcbride Dabbs 489
  • §72 James Mcbride Dabbs 502
  • §73 Marion King 510
  • 1963 513
  • 1963 - §74 Reverend J. Claude Evans 515
  • §75 Reverend James A. Pike 522
  • §76 Edler Garnet Hawkins 527
  • §77 Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker 533
  • §78 Reverend J. V. Cosby Summerell 543
  • §79 James Bevel 547
  • §80 Bruce William Klunder 559
  • §81 Eugene Carson Blake 566
  • §82 Francis Gerald Ensley 574
  • §83 Eugene Carson Blake 581
  • §84 Archbishop Patrick O’boyle 583
  • §85 John Lewis 584
  • §86 Charles Morgan, Jr 587
  • §87 Reverend George H. Woodard 591
  • §88 Dick Gregory 596
  • §89 Dr. Arthur E. Shelton 622
  • §90 Frank T. Wilson 627
  • §91 Dave Dennis 631
  • §92 Dave Dennis 634
  • §93 Dr. Aaron Henry 637
  • §94 James Mcbride Dabbs 647
  • §95 Reverend Duncan Howlett 656
  • §96 David G. Colwell 662
  • §97 Robert W. Spike 667
  • §98 Reverend Lawrence Campbell 676
  • 1964 684
  • 1964 - §99 Ella Josephine Baker 685
  • §100 Reverend Edward W. Harris 688
  • §101 Reverend L. Wilson Kilgore 698
  • §102 Reverend Duncan Howlett 705
  • §103 James Mcbride Dabbs 713
  • §104 Mildred Bell Johnson 719
  • §105 Ralph David Abernathy 729
  • §106 Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth 738
  • §107 Thomas Merton 743
  • §108 Robert W. Spike 752
  • §109 Albert D’orlando 758
  • §110 Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth 766
  • §111 Robert W. Spike 768
  • §112 Dave Dennis and Reverend Edwin King 774
  • §113 Fannie Lou Hamer 784
  • §114 Father Theodore M. Hesburgh 794
  • §115 Reverend Robert J. Mccracken 813
  • 1965 819
  • 1965 - §116 Kelly Miller Smith 821
  • §117 Hearings before the United States Commission on Civil Rights 826
  • §118 Charles F. Wittenstein 852
  • §119 Reverend Duncan Howlett 857
  • §120 Albert D’orlando 865
  • §121 Roy Wilkins 871
  • §122 Robert A. Reed 873
  • §123 Reverend Duncan Howlett 877
  • §124 Morris B. Abram 884
  • §125 Jonathan Daniels 891
  • §126 Daniel Berrigan 898
  • §127 Reverend Ralph David Abernathy 902
  • §128 Kelly Miller Smith 908
  • §129 Gardner C. Taylor 914
  • §130 Theodore Parker Ferris 919
  • Bibliography 925
  • Index 971
  • Permissions Acknowledgments 997
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