May 13, 2013
A pioneer in the civil rights movement in the United States and proponent of nonviolent action, Rev. James M. Lawson Jr. was the Heritage Award honoree at the Aquarium of the Pacific’s 2013 African-American Festival. Lawson learned about principles of nonviolence through the Fellowship of Reconciliation and during three years spent in India.
When they met at the Oberlin School of Theology, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. urged Lawson to come to the South and take an active role in the national civil rights movement. Lawson moved to Nashville and began teaching workshops in nonviolent direct action. Dr. King called Lawson “the greatest teacher of nonviolence in America.”
Throughout the 1960s Lawson was active in the civil rights movement in Memphis and in Nashville, where he was a Freedom Rider. He has continued to work on behalf of social justice causes, from labor issues to immigrant rights and international peace.