Get to know civil rights leader Diane Nash

02/25/2014 8:59 AM

02/25/2014 9:00 AM

As a way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Southern desegregation, USC will host a conversation with civil rights pioneer Diane Nash.

Diane Nash was raised in a middle-class family in Chicago, attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., and later transferred to Fisk University in Nashville.

Upon seeing the level of segregation in Nashville, Nash helped start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960. In just a few years, Nash had tremendous impact on the Civil Rights Movement:

•  In 1961, she served jail time after requesting service at a segregated lunch counter, in solidarity with the “Rock Hill Nine,” a group of college students who were arrested after a lunch counter sit-in.
•  The same year, Nash was elected coordinate of the Nashville Student Movement Ride, and was instrumental in organizing the Freedom Riders, activists who rode interstate buses into segregated cities to demonstrate for change. When John Seigenthaler, assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, called to dissuade the Freedom Riders from traveling to Alabama where violence was brewing, Nash simply told him that the riders had all signed their last wills and testaments.
•  In 1962, despite being four months pregnant, Nash was sentenced to two years in prison for teaching nonviolent tactics to children. (She was later released on appeal).
•  That same year, Martin Luther King Jr., nominated her for a civil rights award from the New York branch of the NAACP for her work in student sit-ins.
•  In 1963, Nash played a large role in desegregation efforts in Birmingham, Ala., and in organizing the March on Washington.
•  She also worked on the Selma Voting Rights Campaign in 1965.

She later returned to Chicago, and spent the following years working in education, real estate and fair housing advocacy. Since then, she has been the subject of books and documentaries.

Tuesday night, she will take the stage at the USC Law School auditorium with president Harris Pastides for a conversation about leadership. The leadership dialogue is part of the Carolina Leadership Initiative, an organization that promotes leadership development on campus and helps create new leadership projects.

The 7 p.m. conversation is free and open to the public.

Bridget Winston

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