“Who the hell is Diane Nash?”
Those were the words of U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Well, Diane Nash was a student at Fisk University who decided that she could no longer stand second-class citizenship. She began to attend meetings of like-minded progressives. She eventually helped found Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) with John Lewis. Things started happening very quickly after that.
Age 22: Nash became the leader of the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins. After their arrest, the protesters chose Nash to appear before the judge. They refused to pay their bail because paying would have been an admission of guilt and contributed more money to the efforts to disenfranchise black citizens.
Nash confronted the mayor of Nashville on the city steps. She asked him, “Do you feel it is wrong to discriminate against a person solely on the basis of their race or color?” The mayor responded that he did. Three weeks later, Nashville lunch counters were integrated.
Age 23: Nash participated in the Freedom Rides. As the violence and hatred escalated, many of the Riders wanted to stop in Birmingham, Alabama. Though the Freedom Rides had been created by CORE, Diane Nash and John Lewis enlisted SNCC to help finish the rides. Nash took over and led the Freedom Rides from Birmingham to Jackson, Mississippi. A top advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice tried to persuade Nash to call off the Freedom Rides after the Ku Klux Klan firebombed a bus in Alabama. Nash responded, “You don’t understand; we signed our wills last night.”
Age 24: Diane Nash tried to recruit minors for the Freedom Rides, for which she was jailed in South Carolina. The official charge: Aiding in the delinquency of minors. At the time, Nash was four months pregnant but still refused to pay her bail. She was released after only a few weeks.
Nash was also appointed by President Kennedy to a national committee preparing for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Age 25: After four little girls were killed during Sunday School in Birmingham, Alabama, Nash approached the SCLC with an idea to create a massive nonviolent movement. She was rejected. Eventually, she organized the Selma to Montgomery marches. While crossing the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama, John Lewis suffered a fractured skull. In response to this, LBJ pushed for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Why she should be remembered: A twenty-something college student decided that she needed to change her country. She succeeded.
Read more about Diane Nash.
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15) Robert Robinson
16) Jourdon Anderson
Keep coming back for another article each day of Black History Month.
Photo— Flickr/ TradingCardsNPS