Marshall, Tx. - A pioneering civil rights icon who helped start the non-violent resistance movement in America visits Wiley College Thursday morning.
James Lawson marched with Doctor Martin Luther King and was a leading advocate for using nonviolence to achieve equal rights.
"When you look at nonviolent actions in the last hundreds years they have been more effective than violence," said Rev. Lawson.
Lawson spent his life promoting nonviolent resistance to fight against segregation. He quotes historical data that examines revolutions from the past one-hundred years.
"Data shows nonviolent struggles have been 56 percent effective, violent struggles have only been about 23 percent effective," Lawson said.
He also quotes the biblical texts.
"The scriptures have a longstanding insistence that while the wars are there and sword is there, this is not the way to go," Lawson said.
He traveled to India and studied Ghandi's teachings. Later helping organize the March on Washington D.C. and the Freedom Rides of 1961. Doctor King called him "the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world." Now he's trying to revive King's message for today's youth.
"Nonviolent resistance in these days it's pretty hard, a tough thing, because are first thought is to retaliate when others cause harm instead of thinking logically," said April Smith, 2016-2017 Miss Senior Wiley College.
Lawson said people can look at the violent wars of today and race tensions found at home and abroad to confirm the importance of protesting peacefully.
"Anyone looking at the world will have to challenge and ask is this the best way we can do these things," Lawson said.
Lawson was part of Wiley College's distinguished lecture series for Black History Month.
You can read more about his background from a release by Wiley College:
(Marshall Texas) Civil rights leader James Lawson, who worked and marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and trained then emerging civil rights leaders, including congressman John Lewis, on the principles of nonviolent resistance, will speak at Wiley College on Thursday, February 9, 2017, at 11 a.m. in the Julius S. Scott Sr. Chapel as part of the school's Distinguished Lecture Series and Religious Emphasis Week activities.
The son and grandson of Methodist ministers, the Rev. Dr. James Lawson, who was born in 1928 in Pennsylvania, followed in their footsteps and became licensed to preach in 1947. He attended Baldwin Wallace College in Ohio. While there, Lawson joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation, which believed in and practiced nonviolent civil disobedience during the struggle and fight against segregation in the U.S.
In 1951, Lawson resisted the U.S. draft as a conscientious objector and served a year in prison. Upon release, he traveled to Nagpur, India, where he taught at Hislop College for three years. During his time there, he learned about Mohandas Ghandi's teachings and tactics of nonviolent resistance and peaceful protests.
Lawson returned to the states in 1956 and enrolled in divinity school at Oberlin University in Ohio. It was there that a professor introduced him to Martin Luther King Jr., who encouraged him to take a more active role in the civil rights movement. Lawson moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he enrolled in the Vanderbilt University School of Divinity. In Nashville, he played a crucial role in organizing student sit-ins and conducting workshops to train others on the tactics of peaceful, civil disobedience. His actions led to his being expelled from Vanderbilt University. Years later, however, he would be named a distinguished visiting professor at the school.
Lawson took part in and helped to organize the Freedom Rides of 1961. He helped plan the March on Washington in 1963. He also helped to organize the sanitation strikes of 1968 in Memphis. According to numerous biographical sources, King, who spoke to the sanitation workers on the night before his assassination, also praised Lawson that night, calling him "the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world."
Lawson moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1974 and served as pastor of Holman United Methodist Church for 25 years. He retired from the church in 1999, but remains active in teaching, as well as pursuing human rights and dignity for all.