Co-presented by the Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance at Rice University, The Menil Collection, Project Row Houses, and Riverside United Methodist Church
“James Lawson . . . was hated in Memphis . . for the most interesting of all reasons: he was a totally moral man, and totally moral men you can’t manipulate and you can’t buy and you can’t hustle.”
—Union leader Jerry Wurf, 1968 Memphis sanitation workers strike
Rev. James Lawson is a famed civil-rights activist who was the Movement’s prime teacher of nonviolent resistance. He studied Gandhi’s methods of nonviolent action while a Methodist missionary in India after serving prison time as a conscientious objector during the Korean War. In 1957 Martin Luther King Jr. urged Lawson to come join those challenging the edifice of racism in the South. Working for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Lawson moved to Nashville, where he taught the tactics of nonviolent direct action to young African Americans who led campaigns of sit-ins and Freedom Rides.
While pastor of Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis, he supported the long 1968 strike by black sanitation workers. In 1974, Lawson moved to Los Angeles to lead Holman United Methodist Church, where he is now pastor emeritus. Rev. Lawson remains active in numerous human rights campaigns, has been a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Vanderbilt University, and frequently speaks for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, which annually gives James Lawson Awards for Achievements in the Practice, Study, or Reporting of Nonviolent Conflict.
This program is part of the series Gandhi in the Present: Strategies of Nonviolence through Artistic Practice presented by Project Row Houses.