Diane Nash- Dynamic Leader in the Civil Rights Movement

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Ed Note:

Diane Nash was an organizer in several of the most successful efforts of the Civil Rights Movement : the Freedom Rides, co founding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and  co-initiating the Alabama Voting Rights Project which included the Selma Voting Rights Movement. 

Diane Judith Nash was born on May 15, 1938 in Chicago, Illinois to Leon Nash and Dorothy Bolton Nash.  Nash grew up a Roman Catholic and attended parochial and public schools in Chicago.  In 1956, she graduated from Hyde Park High School in Chicago, Illinois and began her college career at Howard University in Washington, D.C. before transferring to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.

While a student in Nashville Nash witnessed southern racial segregation for the first time in her life.  In 1959, she attended nonviolent protest workshops led by Reverend James Lawson who was affiliated with the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference.  Later that year she protested exclusionary racial policies by participating in impromptu sit-ins at Nashville’s downtown lunch counters. Nash was elected chair of the Student Central Committee because of her nonviolent protest philosophy and her reputation from these sit-ins.

By February 13, 1960, the mass sit-ins that began in Greensboro, North Carolina on February 1 had spread to Nashville.  Nash organized and led many of the protests which ultimately involved hundreds of black and white area college students.  As a result, by early April Nashville Mayor Ben West publicly called for the desegregation of Nashville’s lunch counters and organized negotiations between Nash and other student leaders and downtown business interests.  Because of these negotiations, on May 10, 1960 Nashville, Tennessee became the first southern city to desegregate lunch counters.  

Meanwhile Nash and other students from across the South assembled in Raleigh, North Carolina at the urging of NAACP activist Ella Baker.  There they founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in April 1960.  

After the Nashville sit-ins, Nash helped coordinate and participated in the 1961 Freedom Rides across the Deep South.  Later that year Nash dropped out of college to become a full-time organizer, strategist, and instructor for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) headed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nash married civil rights activist James Bevel in 1961 and moved to Jackson, Mississippi where she began organizing voter registration and school desegregation campaigns for SCLC.   Arrested dozens of times for their civil rights work in Mississippi and Alabama in the early 1960s, Nash and her husband, James Bevel, received SCLC’s Rosa Parks award from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965.  Dr. King cited especially their contributions to the Selma Right-to-vote movement that eventually led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965

In 1966, Nash joined the Vietnam Peace Movement.  Through the 1960s she stayed involved in political and social transformation. In the 1980s she fought for women’s rights.  Nash now works in real estate in her home town Chicago, Illinois, but continues to speak out for social change.

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Diane Nash refused to join the anniversary Selma march in 2015, although she had been one of the leaders of the original march,  because former President George W. Bush was participating. 

Sources: Rosetta E. Ross, Witnessing and Testifying: Black Women, Religion, and Civil Rights (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003).

Contributor: Kealoha, Samantha Nicholas University of Washington See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/nash-diane-judith-1938#sthash.pu1ZKTlY.dpuf Photo Used with Permission of BlackPast.org.


 

This completes our series of posts celebrating Women’s History Month.

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

 

 

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

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Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

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Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

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Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
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  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
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  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
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Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.