NBC's Lester Holt reports on civil rights veteran Diane Nash, who was part of the early fight to desegregate lunch counters in Nashville.
Start of Sit-Ins/Mock Demonstrations
Unidentified RESTAURANT EMPLOYEE: I said I’m sorry, our management does not allow us to serve niggers in here.
LESTER HOLT: In public facilities throughout the Jim Crow south, segregation was more than a policy; it was a way of life.
DIANE NASH, Student Protestor: I knew about segregation, but when I got to Nashville, it was the first time I had experienced it in a blatant kind of way.
HOLT: Diane Nash from Chicago was a student at Nashville’s Fisk University.
NASH: It felt particularly oppressive, not to be able to go downtown with a girlfriend and treat ourselves to a cheap lunch. So, I started seething about it really, I got outraged. I started looking for an organization that was trying to do something to combat segregation.
HOLT: Nash joined a weekly workshop run by James Lawson, a Vanderbilt Divinity student. Lawson had studied Gandhi, and the theory of nonviolent civil disobedience. In mock demonstrations like this one, he prepared the activists for the abuse that would surely come, once they put that theory to the test at Nashville lunch counters.
Activist 1: Nigger!
Activist 2: Nigger!
HOLT: Many of these students would go on to play critical roles in the Civil Rights Movement.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On the same downtown block where Nashville police officers carried a young John Lewis by his hands and feet to a paddy wagon for daring to take a seat at a whites-only lunch counter decades ago, today's fresh-faced police recruits are learning lessons about the fraught history between law enforcement and African-Americans.