Monday, January 18, 2010

Civil Rights Pioneer Diane Nash to Speak Feb. 4 at Ohio Wesleyan University

Nash Spearheaded Nashville Sit-In Efforts in 1960, Contributed to 1963 March on Washington.

DELAWARE, OH – In 1960, 21-year-old Diane Nash and other Nashville residents quietly began to challenge the exclusionary racial policy of the city’s downtown lunch counters. February marks the 50th anniversary of their now-legendary sit-ins, which elevated the struggle for racial equality to a new level and set the stage for the civil rights crusade of the 1960s.

Nash will speak at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 in the Benes Rooms of Ohio Wesleyan University’s Hamilton-Williams Campus Center, 40 Rowland Ave., Delaware. Her presentation, “The Civil Rights Movement: A Fifty-Year Perspective,” will include time for audience questions, and is free and open to the public. Her presentation kicks off the university’s commemoration of Black History Month.

Diane Nash

Diane Nash, a leader of the civil rights movement, will speak Feb. 4 at Ohio Wesleyan as part of the university’s celebration of Black History Month.
Photo courtesy of Diane Nash
“Ms. Nash is a towering figure in the freedom struggle,” said history professor Michael Flamm, Ph.D., who is coordinating her Ohio Wesleyan visit. “She provides a personal and inspirational perspective that no textbook or lecture could. I hope everyone comes to hear her speak about her extraordinary life and her timely thoughts on civil rights and race relations in the 21st century.”

In spring 1960, Nash publicly questioned Mayor Ben West about the morality of segregation, resulting in his pronouncement that Nashville’s lunch counters should be open to everyone. She then helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, through which she planned and publicized lunch counter sit-ins and “freedom rides” throughout the South.

In 1962, while living in Mississippi, Nash was jailed for teaching African American children the techniques of direct nonviolent protest.
Her ideas and efforts were instrumental in 1963’s March on Washington, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Later, she helped to develop the strategy for the Selma, Ala., right-to-vote movement, which led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For her efforts, Nash received a “Rosa Parks Award” from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, presented in 1965 by Dr. King himself.

Nash has earned countless additional honors throughout her lifetime, including a “Distinguished American Award” from the John F. Kennedy Library in 2003. Her work also has been discussed in books including “Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice” by Raymond Arsenault and “Freedom’s Daughters: A Juneteenth Story” by Lynne Olson.

In addition, Nash has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” NBC’s “TODAY,” and in Spike Lee’s film “Four Little Girls.” She also has appeared in the award-winning documentary “A Force More Powerful” and the PBS series “Eyes on the Prize,” a 14-hour television documentary chronicling the American civil rights movement.

Nash’s Ohio Wesleyan visit is co-sponsored by the Department of History, Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, Student Union on Black Awareness, Sagan Fellows Fund, and Joseph and Edith Vogel Lecture Fund.

Ohio Wesleyan’s Black History Month commemoration also will include a Poetry Slam hosted by the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. The poetry slam, free and open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 in the Bishop Café on the lower level of Hamilton-Williams Campus Center, 40 Rowland Ave., Delaware.

Ohio Wesleyan University is an undergraduate liberal arts college that transforms the lives of its students through a combination of rigorous academics, mentoring relationships, and real-world experiences. Featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” the private university’s 1,850 students come from 45 states and 39 countries.

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