KINGSTON, R.I. – June 6, 2014 – One of the primary organizers of the 1965 Selma, Ala. voting rights movement, Reverend Bernard Lafayette Jr., will speak at the University of Rhode Island on June 10, at 7 p.m., as part of the center’s 13th annual International Nonviolence Summer Institute, which concludes June 14.
Lafayette, founder and former director of the URI Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies, will read from “In Peace and Freedom,” co-authored by URI faculty member Kathryn Lee Johnson, about his experiences in organizing the historic nonviolent protests. The book signing at URI’s Multicultural Center, 74 Lower College Road, is open to the public.
The marches in Selma and the Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March are recognized as turning points in the civil rights movement leading up to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Lafayette was 22 and a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee when he was assigned as director of the Alabama Voter Registration Project in Selma, a city that the SNCC had earlier rejected as too dangerous.
“Through the lens of his training and the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence … , Bernard Lafayette takes us on a journey through the heart of the Deep South and the Black Belt of Alabama. He makes the story of the struggle real; he makes it come alive,” wrote U.S. Rep. John Lewis D-Ga. in the foreword of “In Peace and Freedom.”
Lafayette, who is also teaching at the summer institute, was an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a leader of lunch counter sit-ins, a freedom rider and the national coordinator of the Poor People’s Campaign.
The minister and lecturer was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from URI in May. Also in May 2014, Lafayette and Johnson were honored with the prestigious Lillian Smith Book Award, named after the outspoken Southern writer, for literary merit, moral vision, and honest representation of the South.
Johnson is a staff member of URI’s Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies and an adjunct faculty member in URI’s School of Education.