"Who The Hell Is Diane Nash?"
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

"Who The Hell Is Diane Nash?"

Lessons from a civil rights pioneer.

"Who The Hell Is Diane Nash?"
Alchetron, Makers

On June 16 ,1961, then Attorney General Robert Kennedy was faced with the answer to his incredulous question of Diane Nash's identity, an action sparked by her coordination of the Freedom Ride from Birmingham, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi as a college student. The Kennedy administration wanted to avoid the risk of violence that the Freedom Riders were faced with by shifting the focus to more indirect action, but Diane Nash said no: they had finalized their wills in preparation for the worst but they would not back down.

Diane Nash's legacy began two years before, at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. After engaging in workshops for nonviolent resistance and activism that followed the teachings of Gandhi, she decided she was ready to take a stand against the segregation that plagued southern cities. She led the student sit-in movement in Nashville, which became the first southern city to desegregate its lunch counters, and helped found the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee.

But the violence Nash experienced with the Freedom Ride, especially in Anniston, Alabama, and her many arrests and imprisonment while pregnant with her first child didn't stop her.

Diane Nash spoke at Washington & Lee University on Sunday, January 15, 2017, in part of a five-day commemoration event for the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When asked what kept her motivated in the face of hatred, danger and oppression, she said that she had the choice between standing up for her own rights and remaining segregated. For her, fighting for the basic humanity of not only herself, but for future generations, was motivation enough.

Nash talked about a phrase she coined: agapic energy campaigns, which refers to the Greek word "agape" meaning unconditional love for humanity. Her approach to activism and nonviolent resistance was not the absence of violence but instead the overwhelming presence of love for her community.

I was moved by this. I have been impassioned by different social justice issues because of anger, empathy, indignation, or pride, but I have never approached my desire for social change with the power of love. I learned from Diane Nash that love itself is necessary, but to be powerful it requires the six steps that she identified: investigation, education, negotiation, demonstration, resistance and ensuring the problem does not reoccur.

Now, as I reflect on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I don't have to see issues such as racism or homophobia or xenophobia or sexism as unjust yet still insurmountable. Diane Nash provided me with the tools for direct action, by breaking the issues into bite-sized pieces, thinking about what I envision instead of complaining about what I dislike, finding a few like-minded individuals who will stand with me and learning to tackle the ideas instead of the people.

Lookout, world. We've got a lot of work to do.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

20 Traditional Hispanic Recipes To Feast On In Honor Of Hispanic Heritage Month

... in case you needed another excuse to eat empanadas and churros.

20 Traditional Hispanic Recipes To Feast On In Honor Of Hispanic Heritage Month

Like many of my wanderlust-ridden friends and family, I'll travel anywhere for the promise of good food. I once went to Thailand in pursuit of traditional massaman curry and Spain for authentic patatas bravas — neither of which let me down.

What usually ends up being the biggest letdown is coming home to miss the traditional, local cuisine. It may not have quite the same ambiance, but trying to cook authentic dishes at home can increase appreciation for the craft and culture behind them.

Keep Reading... Show less
Google Images

Launched by Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad in 2014, My Stealthy Freedom is a commendable campaign that shows women going against the strict hijab restrictions in Iran. This movement has recently gained a lot of momentum on their Facebook page and is currently even gaining support from tourists in Iran. Ms. Alinejad shares photos of men in hijabs and women inside Iran who have taken part in a moment of 'stealthy freedom' by removing their hijabs to the outside world.

Keep Reading... Show less

Sinning in Las Vegas

Be careful what you do and post


Going to Las Vegas for the weekend is practically a sacramental right of passage in college. It’s so crucial to our early adulthood development that Snapchat even made a filter that says “Vegas for the Weekend.” Damn Snapchat, you really do get it. 

Keep Reading... Show less

10 Reasons Coffee Is The Best In Honor Of National Coffee Day

National Coffee Day is upon us, and what better way to celebrate than to remember why it's so amazing?

10 Reasons Coffee Is The Best In Honor Of National Coffee Day

National Coffee Day falls on September 29, a fact that I don't think I'll ever forget, even though I didn't even know it was a "holiday" until just recently. Maybe that's because my love for coffee is still a recent development, or maybe I just don't keep up enough with the times, but either way, I can't think of any better time to recount why we all probably love it so much.

Keep Reading... Show less

Hispanic Heritage Month

A lil history and a few thoughts.

Dianeliz Gonzalez

Hispanic Heritage month is here, and we are ready to celebrate!

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments