Civil rights pioneer coming to Fairfield University

Fairfield University’s annual commemoration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. features a series of campus-wide events designed to invigorate and inspire. The 2013 MLK Jr. Convocation features Diane Nash, a pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement, appearing in conversation with university students in an event moderated by Dr. Yohuru Williams, associate professor of African American history.

FSnashThe theme for the 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observance, “The time is always right to do what is right,” is based on a quote by King, taken from a commencement address he gave at Oberlin College in 1965. This year’s convocation takes place at the university’s Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Thursday, Jan. 31, at 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Nash’s involvement in the non-violent movement began in 1959, while she was a student at Fisk University. In 1960, she became the chairperson of the student sit-in movement in Nashville, Tenn., the first southern city to desegregate its lunch counters, as well as one of the founding students of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. In 1961, she coordinated the Freedom Ride from Birmingham, Ala., to Jackson, Miss., a story that was documented in the recent PBS American Experience film “Freedom Riders.”

Her many arrests for her civil rights activities culminated in Nash being imprisoned for 30 days in 1961, while she was pregnant with her first child. Undeterred, she went on to join a national committee, to which she was appointed by President John F. Kennedy, that promoted passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She later became active in the peace movement that worked to end the Vietnam War and became an instructor in the philosophy and strategy of non-violence as developed by Mohandas Gandhi.

This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Vision Awards, given to individuals who exemplify the virtues of King, are being presented to Sharon Pedrosa; Wylie Blake, campus minister for service; and David Brown, a faculty member in applied ethics.

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