Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Civil Rights Leader Reverend James Lawson Donates Papers to Vanderbilt University, Nashville

As reported by Nashville Public Radio's WPLN News, "Civil Rights Leader Donates Historic Papers to Vanderbilt," on 19 February 2013 -- A hero of the Civil Rights movement is donating a massive trove of personal letters and memorabilia to Vanderbilt University. Reverend James Lawson was once kicked out of Vanderbilt for his role in Nashville’s historic lunch-counter sit-ins. Lawson says he’s wanted the school to have the collection for decades.

Lawson is giving thousands of pages to Vanderbilt – more than thirty boxes worth. Not even he’s sure what all’s included, but he hints there might be a bullet someone mailed him a few days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

“My wife and I recognized it as being a message saying that you’re next.”

Reverend James Lawson and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

In recent years Lawson accepted an invitation to teach at Vanderbilt. The 84-year-old says being on friendly terms after his famous expulsion just shows how non-violent protest works.

“Seeing the opponent as other human beings as well, even the enemy as vulnerable human beings like the rest of us, you open up the possibility that former opponents will change their minds and not be stuck in their animosity.”

As library officials build up an index of the collection, Lawson himself will supply some of the details – for example, helping recognize faces in old photos. Processing a lifetime of correspondence for preservation will likely take the next year – and that’s not even all of it. Lawson says he still has to share tapes from interviews, and, one official notes, he’s still out working, adding more every day. (source: Nashville Public Radio's WPLN News,)

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