About James Lawson

James Lawson is the father of the civil rights movement in Nashville and is responsible for the larger nonviolent civil rights movement that shaped history. After being sent to lead by Martin Luther King, Jr., Lawson trained Nashville students like John Lewis, Diane Nash, Bernard Lafayette, Marion Barry, C.T. Vivian, and James Bevel; launched the Nashville sit-ins; wrote the founding document for SNCC; kept the Freedom Rides alive; elevated women in a time when they were typically sidelined; brought King to Tennessee during the Memphis sanitation strikes; and was a central player throughout the nonviolent effort to desegregate the south.

While he was one of the most pivotal, consequential figures of the civil rights movement and drove the Nashville campaign, Lawson has been largely ignored by history. A kind man of great humility, he has never sought fame or fortune. He has forcefully fought for good since his teenage years, spoken truth to power throughout his life, and earned the respect of those who have been lucky enough to have been engaged by him.

Nashville and the entire nation are indescribably fortunate to have been positively impacted by Lawson in such substantive ways, and James Lawson High School will follow his example by inspiring students to be their best selves and reach their full potential.