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The Reverend James M. Lawson, Jr. is the living embodiment of a life wholly dedicated to the pursuit of justice and equality. He has answered the question — “What will I do?”—by devoting himself to an extraordinary life of service to others. He has taught the principles of nonviolence for over sixty years to countless numbers of social activists and future leaders.

As a young man, Reverend Lawson traveled to India with the Methodist Board of Missionaries and studied the principles of non-violence with the disciples of Mahatma Gandhi shortly after Gandhi’s assassination. Lawson grasped the relevance of such tactics to advance the cause of African Americans in the South. In 1957, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., urged Lawson to help the Movement by moving South. He did and began facilitating weekly nonviolence training workshops to interracial audiences. Many future leaders of the movement, including John Lewis, Diane Nash, and James Bevel, were instructed by Lawson. John Lewis noted that Reverend Lawson was the architect of the nonviolent movement. Reverend Lawson’s workshops became the springboard for the many nonviolent sit-ins and campaigns that took place throughout the South. In recent years, Reverend Lawson has led organizing efforts on behalf of low-wage workers in the service industry, as well as for undocumented students. Reverend Lawson continues to advocate for social change and remains an active college instructor.

In this lecture, Reverend Lawson speaks about the importance of nonviolence as a tool for social change and reflects on his own vocational journey.

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Mohandas Gandhi, nonviolence, social justice, social change, activism, racial equality


Christianity | Civic and Community Engagement | Ethics and Political Philosophy | Politics and Social Change | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social Justice


Funding for this lecture provided by the Harold C. Smith Foundation, the Ursinus College Institute for Inclusion and Equity and The Nexus Initiative.

Introduction by Christian Rice, Assistant Dean for Civic Engagement, and Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins, Collegeville Mayor.

The downloadable mp4 video file has a run time of 1:34:42.

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This lecture is available for educational purposes only.