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Diane Nash, Civil Rights Icon, to Speak at Northwestern

April 23, 2019
Diane Nash during Northwestern’s commemoration of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Diane Nash during Northwestern’s commemoration of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Esteemed civil rights activist, leader, and organizer Diane Nash will participate in a community conversation Thursday, April 25, on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus.

The talk, which will begin at 5:15 p.m., will be at a Lutkin Hall Auditorium, 700 University Place. The conversation will be facilitated by Martha Biondi, the Lorraine H. Morton Professor of African American Studies. The event is free and open to the public.

Nash, a Chicago native, is an icon of the civil rights movement. She first witnessed racial segregation as a student at Fisk University in Nashville and is well known as an esteemed leader and strategist of civil rights activities in the 1960s.

Nash was involved with integrating lunch counters through sit-ins, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Selma right-to-vote movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

In 1961, Nash coordinated the Freedom Ride from Birmingham, Alabama, to Jackson, Mississippi.  She also played a key role in bringing King to Montgomery, Alabama, in support of the Freedom Riders.

Throughout Nash’s work, she was arrested numerous times, and she was imprisoned while pregnant with her first child. Determined to strive for continuous social change, she became part of a national committee – appointed by President John F. Kennedy – that promoted passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Nash is the recipient of 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; and has an honorary doctorate of human letters from Fisk University, her alma mater. In 2009, she delivered the Slavery Remembrance Day Memorial Lecture in Liverpool, England.

Her many accomplishments have been cited in numerous books, documentaries, magazines, and newspapers. Her television and film appearances include “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and director Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary “4 Little Girls,” about the 1963 bombing during a Sunday morning service at an African-American Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four black schoolgirls.

Nash also appeared as herself in the award-winning 14-hour PBS documentary series, “Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965,” about the glory years of the movement. The series won a number of awards, including six Emmys.

The April 25 event is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and the School of Education and Social Policy.

In 2016, Nash was the keynote speaker at Northwestern’s commemoration of the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.