Legendary civil rights and peace activist Diane Nash -- who became involved in the nonviolent civil rights movement in 1959 when she was a college student in Nashville -- will be the keynote speaker at Northwestern University’s 2016 commemoration of the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.


Nash, one of the founding students of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, will speak on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. Both programs are free and open to the public.


She will be the keynote speaker during the 6 p.m. University-wide MLK Commemoration at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive. Free and open to the public, the annual program will include music and performances from Northwestern student groups.


Nash’s Chicago campus talk at noon, Jan. 25, will take place in Thorne Auditorium, located in the Arthur Rubloff Building, 375 E. Chicago Ave., during a program sponsored by Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and Pritzker School of Law.


Nash, a Chicago native who had never experienced segregation in public accommodations prior to moving to the South, went on to become one of the civil rights movement’s pioneers.


She was a leader and strategist of the student wing of the 1960s civil rights movement. Her campaigns were among the most successful of the era. In 1960, Nash became the chairperson of the Fisk University student sit-in movement in Nashville, Tenn., the first southern city to desegregate its lunch counters.


In 1961, Nash coordinated the Freedom Ride from Birmingham, Ala., to Jackson, Miss. She also played a key role in bringing Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to Montgomery, Ala., May 21 of that year, in support of the Freedom Riders.


That memorable journey was documented in the recent Public Broadcast Services (PBS) American Experience film “Freedom Riders.” The 2011 documentary tells the inspirational story behind a courageous band of civil rights activists who challenged segregation in the American South.

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