James Lawson and Bernard Lafayette Freedom Rider Autographs

Civil Rights, Of Interest

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James Lawson (the man in the middle) met Dr. King in 1955 (right after the Montgomery Bus Boycott) and is a huge reason why Dr. King pursued his nonviolent philosophy. Rev. Lawson is the man who personally trained other civil rights legends such as John Lewis, Diane Nash, Bernard Lafayette, Jesse Jackson, Marion Barry, etc. James Lawson is also responsible for inviting Dr. King to Memphis to help the cause of the Memphis sanitation workers. Surprisingly, Rev. Lawson was so convinced that James Earl Ray did not assassinate Dr. King that he officiated a wedding for James Earl Ray in prison. 

Bernard Lafayette (on the right) played a leading role in the early organizing of the Selma Voting Rights Movement. He also participated in the Sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, and was part of Dr. King’s inner circle. He has been beaten and arrested 27 times for the cause of justice. He told me that he still has his key from his room at the Lorraine Motel. His was Room 206, the room directly below Dr. King’s room (306) where Dr. King was assassinated.

The man on the far left of the photo is Joe Carter from New York. He was a student from American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville. Bernard Lafayette said that he and Carter were in a quartet and recalled an anecdote where he was in jail together with Carter and James Bevel. They were singing freedom songs in the jail and it sounded so good that the jailer thought they had a radio. The jailer demanded that they surrender this imagined radio. Bevel said, “We’re not gonna give y’all the radio!” The jailer responded by bringing more jailers to retrieve the radio. Lafayette told Bevel to stop it because the jailers were going to beat them up—a classic Bevel anecdote.