Diane Nash to speak at Lake Erie College


Lake Erie College is proud to welcome Diane Nash, one of the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement and a leader for social change today, to campus as the keynote speaker for the College’s annual Founders Day event.

Nash will be presenting “The Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s: A Legacy for Today.” The event will take place Thursday, November 3 at 2:00 p.m. in the Jerome T. Osborne Family Athletic & Wellness Center, located at the corner of Gillett and Walnut Streets.

As a Chicago native who had never experienced widespread segregation before moving to the South, Nash’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement began in 1959 while she was a student at Fisk University in Nashville. In 1960 she became the chairperson of the student sit-in movement in Nashville, which became the first southern city to desegregate its lunch counters, and she was 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.

Nash’s many arrests for her civil rights activities culminated in her imprisonment for 30 days in Rock Hill, South Carolina in 1961, while she was pregnant with her first child. Also in 1961, she became director of the direct action arm of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee and was soon appointed by President John F. Kennedy to join a national committee that promoted passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Nash worked as a field staff person, organizer, strategist, race relations staff person and workshop instructor for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) from 1961-65.  She later became an activist in the peace movement that worked to end the Vietnam War, and she also became an instructor in the philosophy and strategy of non-violence as developed by Mohandas Gandhi.

Nash was one of two people who conceptualized and formed SCLC’s initial strategy for the Selma Right-To-Vote movement, and also participated in its development until its conclusion. The Selma movement was one of the major efforts that resulted in the Voting Rights Act. For this work, she and her co-strategist received SCLC’s highest award for 1965, which was presented by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Diane Nash is the recipient of numerous awards, including the War Resisters’ League Peace Award; the Distinguished American Award presented by the John F. Kennedy Library; the LBJ Award for Leadership in Civil Rights from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum; the National Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn.; the Living Legend Award from the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Ala.; and the Lincoln Medal by the Ford’s Theatre Foundation. She also received honorary doctorates from Fisk University, her alma mater, and the University of Notre Dame.     

Her work has been cited in numerous books, documentaries, magazines and newspaper articles, and she has appeared on such TV shows and films as The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Today show, the PBS American Experience film Freedom Riders, Spike Lee’s Four Little Girls, and PBS’s Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965.

Nash, a current resident of Chicago, lectures at colleges and universities and continues to be an activist in civil rights and peace issues. She has an adult son and daughter and is a grandmother. 

Nash’s speech at Lake Erie College’s Founders Day event is free and open to the public. Founders Day is an annual celebration at Lake Erie College where students, faculty, staff and friends gather to recognize the institution’s deep rooted traditions and its founders.

If you are interested in bring a group to the event, please contact pr@lec.edu. For more information, call 440-375-7255.

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