Which friends will be killed or injured?

A student on the Notre Dame University panel that interviewed Diane Nash on January 20, 2020 asked her how being young, a woman, and an African-American woman informed her activism in the male-dominated civil rights movement.

“The leadership positions in the civil rights movement were generally expected to be filled by men,” Nash replied. “I was the third chairperson in Nashville. The first two were men. They missed meetings, and they missed demonstrations, and when they came back, we said, ‘where were you?’ Both of them replied, ‘studying.’”

“We, meaning the leadership of students, said we cannot afford to have leaders who are not efficient because someone could get killed or injured. So we replaced them. We thanked them for their service. Each of them lasted three weeks.”

“I was the third. I declined, repeatedly, to be chairperson. I was afraid to be chairperson. I did not want to be chairperson. But the group wouldn’t let me decline. Finally, I gave in and accepted. And I remember coming into the dormitory that night after that meeting, and the room was dark, and my roommate Cathy wasn’t home. I leaned on the wall on her side of the room, and I felt like I didn’t have the strength to turn on the light, or walk across to my side of the room. I thought that we would be coming up against white racists in their 40s or 50s or 60s who were businessmen and politicians and I thought, my God, what have I done? Which of my closest friends are likely to be killed or injured in the next several weeks? So it was daunting, but it needed to be done.”


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Marian Pierce