JANUARY 15-18, 2016

Apathy to Action:  Activism, Allyship and Anti-Racism

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.


“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.



Rev. James Lawson

Rev. James Lawson, once dubbed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as “the leading nonviolence theorist in the world,” studied the Gandhian movement in India before becoming a leader in the civil rights movement. His life – including his student years at Vanderbilt – has been marked by an abiding faith in Christianity and non-violence, and a willingness to pay the price for those beliefs. He served 13 months of a three-year prison sentence for refusing the draft during the Korean War, and was expelled from Vanderbilt in 1960 because of his work helping to desegregate lunch counters in downtown Nashville.
After a national press uproar and threats of mass faculty resignations, a compromise allowed Lawson to complete his graduate studies at Vanderbilt. He opted instead to complete his degree at Boston University.
Lawson went on to a career in the ministry, serving for 25 years as pastor of Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, before becoming pastor emeritus in 1999. He returned to Vanderbilt Divinity School in 1970-71 during a sabbatical, and that school recognized him in 1996 with its first Distinguished Alumnus Award. The Association of Vanderbilt Black Alumni named Lawson the 2002 Walter R. Murray Distinguished Alumnus, and he was named Vanderbilt’s 2005 Distinguished Alumnus.

MLK Day Event Highlights