A Brother in the Spirit of Gandhi: William Stuart Nelson and Nonviolence in the Civil Rights Movement

A Lecture on Ghandian Freedom Fighter by Dr.Denis Dickerson & James Lawson with Pannel Discussion

Report by Madelynn Mitchell


As ​we all know the nonviolent approach was used by leaders during the civil rights movement. Today’s convocation is specifically a lecture about a recognizable background beneficiary William Stuart Nelson who was a freedom fighter and theologian. It can be inferred that this lecture may serve as encouragement for students whom are in pursuit to serve the underrepresented of communities that are treated as insignificant or peripheral with a similar personality as William Stuart Nelson. Additionally, the event can give insight on to implementing tactics that best align with personalities of individuals who are looking to achieve a goal related to fellowship in their lives and communities even with beliefs that differ from the nonviolence approach. Think double consciousness as a term to describe the purpose of the event and the necessity to reach related objectives.

Keep reading to catch up on what you missed from the lecture:

T​he intended audience was students of Lincoln University of Pennsylvania ,especially Freshman. Staff and faculty of LU were also invited. The presentation was sponsored by the office of Religious Activities and the Department of Languages and Literature. It took place at the Mary Dod Memorial Chapel at 12:30 PM on Thursday , October 24, 2019. The special lecturer Dr.Dennis C. Dickerson is a Lincoln University alum of 1971, his associate James M. Lawson Jr. is a professor of history at Vanderbilt University. The introduction was led by Dr. Marilyn Button of the LU english department. The introduction lecture was by Professor Divya Nair of the language department. We had for the panelists: Dr. Anthony B. Monteiro (a Du Boisian Scholar) & Lincoln Universities Chaplen Reverend Frederick Faison.


Photojournalist: Madelynn Mitchell

Dr.Dickerson explains that the act of nonviolence must be internalized by anyone who aims for it to be a successful tactic as it has failed when people who did not embody nonviolence individually used it in the civil rights movement for example which demonstrated a lack of connection and full understanding of this method which is more of a characteristic. Dickerson also explains that Nelson was a background beneficier who was asked by Gandhi to to travel to Ghana with him to benefit from Nelsons wisdom of nonviolence.

“ That’s the notion.”


Audience Questions:

1.) With the method of non-violence , why would I let someone hurt me?

Answer by Dr. Dickerson:

That were structured of subjection , that sounds doesn’t sound logical but that it posits the notion that there is a limit beyond which powerful institutions can go in suppression individuals. That there is an inner strength, there is an internal endurance that systems oppression can violate or compromise. That’s the notion. And when those persons are mobilized in advance, they are more than a match and can eventually overcome any system of segregation, colonization, segregation, apartheid, racial discrimination, thats the notion.


2.) Does everyone have a conscience? And does non-violence demand in us as Nelson puts it “We all have a brute in us. Were all animals but we’re also more than animals and the pressor defines us as being non-human as savages. That’s

how they describe the indians.” Ghandi points out that “ Who is the real savage in this situation?” And so my question then is: Are we more than animals and what is it that nonviolence compels us to do and how does it benefit from – we embrace our humanity in the process and define youth humanity for ourselves in counter distinction to how the white world labels the darker races that : we’re not in control of ourselves – we’re not bound to our nature and we’re not civilized – that’s their definition of us so how does non-violence allow us to challenge that definition and create a new identity and vision for all of humanity, including the white ones?

Answer by Dr.Dickerson:

It is possible. The first priority is to stop oppressive systems from doing what they do. Ya have to stop the colonization , ya have to stop the subjection. You have to stop the segregation , you have to stop the apartheid and you do that instrumentally, practically, physically, materially, through mass globalization. You break those systems through the point of prices and collapse. The nonviolent spiritual vigilance comes in – you could do that – in other words you can be vigorous and energetic and opposed to some systems in retaining your humanity and integrity as an individual. You can do it , you can up end those systems without destroying the integrity of your spiritual being. That’s the principal.

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