Civil rights pioneer Diane Nash visits law school

January 09, 2014

Diane NashCivil rights pioneer and peace activist Diane Nash will visit Seattle University School of Law Jan. 17 in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Nash will speak to students, faculty, alumni, and friends of the law school in the Second Floor Gallery of Sullivan Hall from 10-11 a.m., before addressing the King County Bar Association at the 2014 Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Luncheon. The law school is a co-sponsor of this year's luncheon.

Nash grew up in Chicago and had never known public segregation first-hand until she moved to Nashville, Tenn., in 1959 to attend college at Fisk University. She found such exclusion humiliating, and was moved to help organize lunch counter sit-ins with other African American activists.

Nashville soon became the first Southern city to desegregate its lunch counters, and Nash became a nationally known figure in the movement. She was one of the founding members of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, and practiced and taught methods of non-violent resistance throughout her life.

In 1961, pregnant for the first time, she went to Mississippi to lead non-violent workshops for students participating in the Freedom Rides from Birmingham, Alabama, to Jackson, Mississippi to desegregate bus travel. There, she was arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of minors.

"I was expecting my first child to be born in jail, actually," she told an interviewer for the PBS/AOL Makers documentary series. She served only 10 days of the sentence.

She was also active in voting rights, and was one of two people who formed the strategy for the Selma Right-to-Vote Movement, which led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For this work, she and a colleague received the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's highest award (Rosa Parks Award) in 1965, presented by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Her many other awards include the War Resisters' League Peace Award, the Distinguished American Award presented by the John F. Kennedy Library, and the LBJ Award for Leadership in Civil Rights from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.