Diane Nash, an award-winning veteran of the civil rights movement will speak on campus as part of the college’s Dr. Paul G. Bulger Lecture Series. The event is free and open to the public. Nash will participate in a question and answer session with audience members after her talk.
“Diane Nash is a pillar of the civil rights movement,” said Buffalo State Provost Melanie L. Perreault. “At a time in our society when many themes and issues from the civil rights era are coming up again, we are fortunate to be able to provide our students and the Western New York community with an opportunity to listen to Ms. Nash’s story first-hand.”
Nash first became involved in the nonviolent civil rights movement in 1959 as a student at Fisk University. From there, she was chairperson of the student sit-in movement in Nashville, Tenn., the first southern city to desegregate its lunch counters. She was also one of the founding members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Nash was coordinator of the Freedom Rides in 1961, and was jailed numerous times for her civil rights activities during this time period, including in Jackson, Miss., when her first child was expected to be born in prison.
She was appointed to a national committee by President John F. Kennedy, promoting the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and served in various roles with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1961 to 1965. In 1965, Nash was awarded the SCLC’s highest award for her work on the Selma Right-To-Vote movement, which was presented by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Among the awards Nash has received are the “Distinguished American Award” from The John F. Kennedy Library in 2003; the LBJ Award for Leadership in Civil Rights from The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in 2004; the 2008 National Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum in 2008; one of six awards presented to Negro Women Freedom Fighters at the March on Washington in 1963 and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s Human Rights Medal in 2009. She was also awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Fisk University in 2007.
Nash’s work is discussed in several well-known books, including “Freedom Riders 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice” by Raymond Arsenault; “Walking with the Wind” by Rep. John Lewis and “Freedom’s Daughters” by Lynne Olson.
Among her TV and film appearances, Nash has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey, Tavis Smiley and Today shows, “Four Little Girls” by Spike Lee and “Freedom Riders,” a PBS American Experience film directed by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson.
Nash, a native and resident of Chicago, Ill., held several administrative positions in social service agencies in Chicago after the 1960s. She was also a housing and real estate consultant. Currently, she lectures at colleges and universities and continues to be an activist in civil rights and peace issues.