Diane Nash

Born:May 15, 1938 (age 86)

Diane Judith Nash is a civil rights activist who was a leader of the student wing of the Civil Rights Movement.

Nash was born on May 15, 1938, in Chicago, Illinois. She began her college career at Howard University but transferred to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, after a year. There she had her first experience with segregation and Jim Crow laws. She attended nonviolent protest workshops led by Rev. James Lawson and became a leader in the Nashville Student Central Committee. In early 1960, Nash helped organized the Nashville sit-ins, the first successful civil rights campaign to integrate lunch counters.

In April 1960, Nash co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which worked with other major organizations within the Civil Rights Movement, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Congress of Racial Equality.

In 1961, after a CORE Freedom Riders bus was firebombed and several riders were severely injured in attacks in Birmingham, Alabama, Nash recruited students from Fisk University and other colleges to ride the buses and led the Freedom Riders from Birmingham to Jackson, Mississippi. Later that year, she left college to work full-time for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. After moving to Jackson, Mississippi, in 1961 following her marriage to fellow activist James Bevel, Nash headed SCLC campaigns to register people to vote and desegregate schools.

After the deaths of four young girls in a church bombing in Birmingham in 1963, Nash worked with the SCLC and Bevel, who was running SCLC's Selma Voting Rights Movement, to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches in early 1965. During the first march, the marchers were attacked by county police and Alabama state troopers as they crossed the Pettus Bridge outside Selma. The televised images of the attack, which became known as "Bloody Sunday," horrified the country and roused support for the Selma Voting Rights Campaign.

Nash cut ties with the SCLC in 1965 over questions about their leadership structure. She also left SNCC in 1965 due to their departure from the principles of nonviolence. After the Civil Rights Movement, Nash moved back to Chicago and worked in fair housing advocacy and real estate, and as an educator and lecturer.