Diane Nash speaks at Peace Lecture

The legendary civil rights activist draws parallels between the 1960s and today

Nov. 8, 2011—When civil rights activist Diane Nash obeyed the segregation rules of the South in the 1960s, she said, “It felt like I was agreeing that I was not worthy of using the drinking fountains, swimming pools and lunch counters where blacks were not allowed to go.”

Speaking Tuesday at the University of Redlands, she recounted the steps she and other Freedom Riders took 50 years ago to end segregation through nonviolent means. “People are not your enemy,” Nash told a crowd inside Memorial Chapel. “Unjust systems, attitudes and ignorance are.”

Oppression requires the cooperation of the oppressed, she added. “The day that blacks decided there would be no segregated buses, was the day that there were no longer segregated buses.”

Her presentation, which outlined six essential steps to promoting change, was part of the University’s annual Cummings Peace Lecture Series. Successful movements begin with investigation, she said. “Define your objective and put it in writing.” Next comes education, negotiation, demonstration, and resistance—when the oppressed withdraw their cooperation from the oppressive situation.

The final step, she said, is to take action to make sure the problem does not happen again.

At the end of her presentation, University of Redlands alum Keith Jackson, (MSIT ’09), a participant in the Occupy Redlands movement, asked Nash for words of wisdom for those encountering opposition from law enforcement in their efforts today.

“I think it’s time to raise the bar in terms of how we expect the police to behave,” she said, adding that the Freedom Riders practiced discipline in order to avoid conflict. “If anyone retaliated, we would immediately call off the demonstration.”

Jackson found Nash’s story heartening.

“To hear someone put change into a historical context like that and to see that she achieved it makes you realize that you can make change happen, too,” he said.

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