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i know what it is and was told that it was a story was i went to see done way back in twenty sixteen he said that that will be true test of non barbers own those are really not his words it was howard thurman susan's firmament and ian carol to ship it wasn't a bishop then and it was just there for them then they had a long conversation with gandhi and all and then as they were preparing to leave to try to persuade gandhi to make a visit to market to state and he said i couldn't do what his worker
and then he said did you have much to tell the negro and he still declined but then he said something like this eye camera directly he said that he had not been able to persuade the western world about the efficacy of his experiment non violent and that perhaps the negro in america would succeed where he failed or something like that not maybe in those exact words of that character he was concerned for the violence a western civilization and for its failure to see any kinds of options and he had a sense that if western solution would not the escalating violence that would destroy itself and take the whole world with
so that's what he said because he recognized he knew enough about the plight of the negro in united states to recognize jim crow laws lynching all variety of ills of tyranny imposed upon people of color so he'd hoped that perhaps you know in the struggle against that racism and all that it might be the negro who without non violent strategies and tactics and theories and cause it to break forth and western civilization which incidentally is one of the consequences of the king movement if i can use that term as two to focus that historical moment more into the fine and as a not the nonviolent struggle i
wanted to do pacifism in the western world you're in united states in the thirties and forties and fifties and sixties and beyond tended to be more passive about their anti tyranny anti injustice anti racism anti poverty values they liked the term non resistance and passed a modest a candy can be called the father of non violence in the twentieth century just as albert einstein is called the father of
physics the twentieth century is the centralia explosion of fifty to eighty various disciplines of human knowledge gandhi's fifty years of experiences produced a science of nonviolence has an effective way to change tyranny violence and especially the spiritual poisons of violence and tyranny so what came tapped into but what i basically is the major teacher of nonviolence in the nineteen sixties pushed was on the one side that we have a methodology i called it in the fifties and approach i called the gun be an experiment an approach
to social change it was an approach that had syrian strategy in it and methodology so that is not learned very wise up and learn very well by great great numbers of people even many people who say that they are nonviolent practitioners and what we did in nashville especially but in our efforts to develop movement in the sixties was to teach and train people in the nonviolent science and bringing about social change this ethically aimed at the raggedy segregation and racism and it's been violence in the twentieth century has
been effective and has helped various western nations into nomination and to build up their military for controlling the rest of the earth but it is not produced and he worries that does not want a better world and the medicines specifically united states six thousand lynchings or more in the twentieth century but not stop the aspirations of black people to get education to do as much with their lives as they could to resist the stuff in every way they could raise it now there is a history in the black community of essentially using nonviolent techniques
turning the other cheek walking the second mile there's no movement in four hundred years in the black community to return hatred for he tripped i've when tooth were two there were some violent protest and ms tricia leahey these largely failed there were no violent protest in the twentieth century and there will of spirituality in the negro communities that martin king both emulated one on the summer the fifth nineteen fifty five when the montgomery bus boycott that first they had been about ninety some percent successful the buses were largely empty ang said in his opening speech of poultry baptist church i cannot exactly call but he said some things like we're going to do this and a christian man or we will not be burning crosses in downtown
we will know what not gotten lynch anyone would not been a heat as we pursued this we're going to do this with a christian love the cities that are quite specific in other words he was representing a black spirituality expressed maybe by james johnson once the end the blaze ep executives secretary and one of the composers and lift ev'ry reason saying that i'm not a no i'm not i'm not going to allow your hatred because me begin in the ditch with you i'm not going to pull me so that it true in return and that of course is a part of the ancient wisdom of the human race often ignored excuse me ma'am one piece one of the people who helped me a great day a good deal in the nineteen fifties was
howard thurman who wrote a little book called jesus and the disinherited in about nineteen forty nine nineteen fifty it's still being credit report it and he told me me in that book what i had learned to my practice of the ethics of jesus he said the gospel of jesus is a survival kit those exact words the gospel of jesus' not the gospel about jesus the gospel of jesus is a survival kit for those who have their backs against the wall those who are the people who are being repressed and go press stand and vilified that that was a great revelation to me when i saw that it confirmed what i thought about jesus
yes but the purpose of the train in nashville was the same purpose as boot camp in the army you bring people to gather and you helped them to begin to discipline themselves to work together as a unit using nonviolence is that a violent that was the purpose of the training well i i did a number of things in college and after a personal level but i had never tried to organize against the major social disease
and cruelty i was the lady with the montgomery bus boycott i knew that was on target and the more i read about it because i was in india at the time as a united methodist mission and back campus minister campus coach at the end that more read about him the more i am the queen of myself came international papers and magazines papers and india views on bbc was on all india radio from the semper fifth nineteen fifty five it was astonishing news for much of the rest of the war a very different reaction i knew that was what we need it and what i've been hoping for so i moved south king martin king and
i shook hands the first time in fifty seven and he urged me not to wait but that comes out the media the and i agree that would do that and what i went south than in in january nineteen fifty thousand southern secretary for the fellowship for reconciliation which is the largest called passive his group in united states which i had met in nineteen forty seven between nineteen fifty seven the end of the montgomery bus boycott in nineteen fifty nine a major question came to southern christian leadership conference was asking as what's the next step and i asked it everywhere i went as i traveled and little rock or a train them on what made nine little rock youngsters and fifty eight and nonviolence as over against passive that they do not fight back they were told and i
said you can fight back fight back non violently and all so the question was where we go from here kelly militiamen who founded the national christian leadership council with andrew white and a number of others we talked that question all the time and so then i decided with killing militiamen and andrew whiteman numbers why don't we in nashville non violently think our way through to the next step and we did this with workshops in nineteen fifty nine the winter and spring where we were trying to assess what's the next step for fighting this stuff and the segregated in this country and that's when we made the decision to desegregate downtown nashville and begin recruiting in the summer of
fifty nine for a series of workshops as we planned the strategy to de segregate downtown natural phenomenon in perspective so that's what i mean i saw that as an experiment which is to copy gandhi know one and then it before no one in the country was asking the question why don't we pull down these white colored signs these no jews size know dirty irish i know chink signs no jack simes no mac signs these were not signs by law these were signs by the spirituality of the nation but no one was protesting so it was especially black women in nashville come into our workshops week after week who said let's begin downtown that's where there's great and dignity white colored signs over everything
and also mistreatment from our white people in the downtown area and we were talking national park well we had workshops in of one of fifty nine spring of fifty nine here in nashville making a decision in the seventies downtown nashville and we then decided that we would recruit students to do it now part of that was my idea because young people you can have no revolution or other young people i'm i'm in my twenties saying this but that's the reality they bring a human energy and idealism that fork over thirty five or forty or fifty do not that they
bring both idealism and sheer physical energy and they bring the fact that they are shaping their lives so we made a concerted effort we would recruit students that they at fisk and tennessee state abc especially these three black institution pablo would provide us with the bulk of our people about manpower when that downtown campaign so we recruited all right one is that the success of one boy cause these allusions once in power he was just out there and how to select the shah
sir we had a specific strategy we knew the techniques we were going to use sit in post a walks economic boycott marches and parades it's necessary that we have we're a target when to set strategy when the techniques in the methodology with williams so i was able to train a folk in the workshop about these different techniques that really nice the success says well that's that's basically at the heart of the success they get the training the strategizing and then the carrying out of the program from a plan we did write a plan down formally as far as i remember but we talk the plan now we thought about and then we carried out so
and we became a highly disciplined movement and we had the tremendous blend of community and students engaged we did some radical things such as we had no mass meeting where we didn't have a least a student speak at a community person maybe a clergy melee percent we organize the central committee to provide the structure once we get the public face and i'm not structure we said we will have the students always chair it so that we would be training persons to give leadership in those two categories speaking and sharing some students who had reservations at my insistence was you're engaged in a struggle you have to learn the skills and this is a part of it or run a movement for social change
whether they should not very long ago and one of the really fascinating is everybody knows the mass meetings and i think that in some way in history forgotten what a mass meeting was you know i was born in new york mass meeting with another form of the worshiper of the church on sunday mornings it was enough to bring people together to inspire them to see what the goals and purposes of the past that you engaged and we're all about to recruit people to inform people and to help build a common sense ability that this is a past that needs doing and that we can do it and we are other instruments of god
to make it happen so that's why the mass meeting became such an important vehicle it should be said in most places we did not have a media that was friendly if they happen to be a television picture that was more by accident than it was by these eye even though national television did eventually come in and take a lot of pictures but again that was not our report it was their report and so a part of the my understanding to nonviolence was a good try to do your own communication the mass meeting was a part of that also crippled do a mimeograph sheets was a part of it it was like a little church
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American Experience
Freedom Riders
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Interview with James Lawson, 1 of 4
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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James Lawson was a Methodist minister; graduate student at Vanderbilt University on the Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi (Trailways) ride. May 24, 1961
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American history, African Americans, civil rights, racism, segregation, activism, students
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Chicago: “American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with James Lawson, 1 of 4,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 9, 2020,
MLA: “American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with James Lawson, 1 of 4.” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 9, 2020. <>.
APA: American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with James Lawson, 1 of 4. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from