SNCC 50th Anniversary Conference
Volume 6 – Luncheon Keynote: Rev. James Lawson, “We Have Not Yet Arrived”
Rev. James Lawson
At SNCC’s founding conference in 1960 it was James Lawson who captured the political imagination of the students. Years before the 1960 gathering, Lawson was imprisoned for 14 months because of his conscientious objection to the Korean War. In 1958 Lawson became the second black student admitted to the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Soon he began mentoring a group of students in nearby HBCUs. These students launched a movement in Nashville that was arguably the most disciplined and committed to non-violence in the South; and it produced some of SNCC’s most notable figures: Diane Nash, John Lewis, Bernard Lafayette, James Bevel, and Marion Barry.
Fifty years later, Rev. Lawson demonstrates that he has lost none of his fire, describing “plantation capitalism” as “the root cause of our problems.” He denounces a nearly one trillion dollar military budget existing “for the sole purpose of protecting U. S. capital” and argues that Barack Obama’s election does not mean that justice has arrived. “The power and energy of the 1960s movement is needed for the 21st century,” he argues. In this address Lawson outlines his belief in the continuing value and necessity of non-violent struggle for social change and justice.