A Brother in the Spirit of Gandhi: William Stuart Nelson and Nonviolence in the Civil Rights Movement
Please join us for a special lecture and discussion this coming Thursday, October 24th at Lincoln University in honor of ongoing celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in the U.S.A. Dr. Dennis Dickerson, who is a Lincoln University alumnus, Class of 1971, will be giving a talk on the late Howard University Vice President and Dean of Divinity, Dr. William Stuart Nelson and his relationship with Mohandas K. Gandhi. Dr. Nelson studied India for nearly two decades and met with Mahatma Gandhi in 1946; he marched with Gandhi in support of communal harmony and religious unity in British-ruled Bengal. Here, he studied non-violent philosophy and methods in order to assert his solidarity with the Indian people and develop a morally just way of fighting segregation in the United States. When he returned to the United States from his Fulbright, he began teaching courses on nonviolence at Howard. He also established the Gandhi Memorial Lecture at Howard and Dr. King delivered the lecture several times. Indeed, in the process, Dr. Nelson became an important mentor to Dr. King, who would himself travel to India in 1959, an experience upon which he elaborates beautifully in his essay “My Trip To the Land of Gandhi” and his sermon, “Palm Sunday Sermon on Mohandas K. Gandhi.” Like Dr. King, Howard Thurman, Sue Bailey Thurman, Blanche Wright, Mordecai Johnson, Benjamin E. Mays, and many other African-American intellectuals, William Stuart Nelson was inspired by Gandhi’s leadership of the Indian anti-colonial struggle and his insistence on truth and the moral imperative.
Dr. Dickerson’s scholarship is revitalizing this crucial history; he is the James Lawson Professor of History at Vanderbilt University and is completing his new book on Gandhi and William Nelson. His talk is entitled “A Brother in the Spirit of Gandhi: William Stuart Nelson and Nonviolence in the Civil Rights Movement.” The lecture will take place at 12:30 pm in the Mary Dod Brown Chapel next Thursday, October 24th, 2019 to be followed by a panel discussion and possibly a lunch. The talk is timely not only because Dr. Dickerson’s book will be published soon but also because 2019 marks the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Thus, the event will surely be of importance to members of the Philadelphia community interested in the history of the civil rights movement and its connection to Indian independence as well as the question of violence and non-violence in national and world affairs today.