Rev. James W. Lawson, a longtime civil rights activist who is now a visiting professor at Vanderbilt University’s Center for the Study of Religion and Culture, will visit campus on Wednesday, Jan. 28, to lead a discussion about the recent presidential election and the future of race relations in America.
The event, which will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the University Center Auditorium, is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.
Lawson worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was active in training many of the leaders of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. He was one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which played a big role in the Open Theater Movement, the Freedom Rides, the Birmingham Children’s Crusade, the Selma Voting Rights Movement and the Chicago Open Housing Movement.
As a result of that work, Lawson was expelled from Vanderbilt’s Divinity School — an incident that garnered much attention. During the 2006 graduation ceremony, Vanderbilt apologized for the way it treated him, and he has now become a faculty member.
In 1962, Lawson was a pastor in Memphis and chaired the strike committee for black sanitation workers. Lawson invited King to Memphis to rally for the striking workers. King delivered his "Mountaintop" speech in support of the strike on April 3, 1998, the day before he was assassinated.
Lawson’s UT lecture is entitled "A Triumph of Hope: The Future of Race Relations in America." It will be followed by a panel discussion with members of the university and Knoxville community, including Rosalind Hackett, professor of religious studies; Avon Rollins, director, Beck Cultural Exchange Center; Chris Woodhull, Knoxville city councilman; and Cory Hipps, UT Student Government Association.