October 2013 Bar Bulletin
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October 2013 Bar Bulletin

Diane Nash to Headline MLK Luncheon

By Karen Murray


The King County Bar Association Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Luncheon Committee is excited to announce that civil rights activist Diane Judith Nash will be our guest speaker for the 2014 annual luncheon on January 17.

Nash played an integral role in the civil rights movement by organizing college students in nonviolent demonstrations throughout the South. In 1960, as an undergraduate student she held strong convictions that regardless of her skin color she was no less a human being than her white counterparts. When Nash saw the "COLORED" signs outside her predominately black college campus of Fisk University in Nashville and saw her brethren sitting on the curb in front of a Woolworth's because Jim Crow laws did not allow them to eat at the lunch counter, she felt the sting of humiliation.

She knew that something had to be done. When a group of young students decided to branch off from the older civil rights organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Nash not only helped form the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the student arm of the civil rights movement, but she also became one of its key organizers.

In 1962, at the age of 23 and armed her strong constitution, strong commitment and strong sense of justice, she decided to take the lead in recruiting and training young black people in nonviolence to integrate bus systems, restrooms, waiting rooms and other public facilities that were still legally segregated. This movement became known as the Freedom Rides.

Since she was encouraging minors to break the law, a warrant was issued for her arrest, charging her with contributing to the delinquency of minors. Although she faced a 2½-year prison sentence and was six months pregnant with her first child, she surrendered to the court.

Demonstrating her commitment to equality, when ordered by the bailiff to sit on the bench in the back row at her arraignment, she instead took a seat in the front row and was jailed for 10 days for contempt of court. During those 10 days, the jail refused her a toothbrush, vitamins or clean clothes. But she found that as long as she got food and water she could get along with nothing else.

In her own words, she states it best: "When you are faced with a situation of injustice or oppression, if you change yourself and become somebody who cannot be oppressed, then the world has to set up against a new you. We students became people who could not be segregated. They could have killed us, but they could not segregate us any longer. Once that happened, the whole country was faced with a new set of decisions. I think most of the students that were participating were confident that we could change the world. I still think we can."

Please mark your calendars for Friday, January 17, and join us at the downtown Sheraton from noon to 1:15 to hear Nash's story of the civil rights movement (and the importance of civil rights today) and to celebrate Dr. King's legacy.

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