The Reverend James Lawson stands at a podium in front a large screen displaying a photo of him with Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Reverend James Lawson, at the University Student Union, March 28, 2023. Photo by Sonia Gurrola.

Longtime CSUN lecturer and pioneering civil rights activist, the Rev. James M. Lawson Jr., has died, at the age of 95. Lawson was a mainstay of the CSUN campus since 2010. He taught theories and practices of nonviolent activism as part of the Civil Discourse and Social Change initiative, an effort dedicated to promoting ideas of community involvement, as well as social and justice related activism. In the 1960s, Lawson was a close adviser and friend to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and traveled with him to the southern United States to train people in the ways of peaceful protests in the struggle for civil rights.

There have been many stories written over the years about Lawson and his teachings on campus — please follow the links below to read more about his time at CSUN. During an appearance in March 2023, his talk, titled “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” summed up his beliefs about keeping the peace while pursuing change.

“Community is seizing hold of life and following its course,” Lawson said.  “Violence results in people pulling away from each other, rather than being drawn to respect and serve each other.”

Chaos or Community? Civil Rights Leader Lawson Encourages People to Pull Together [2023]

Civil Rights Leader and CSUN Instructor Lawson Honored by NAACP [2021]

Civil Rights Icon Transmits Peaceful Protest Philosophies to CSUN Students [2017]

Civil Rights Pioneer, Business Leader to Receive Honorary Doctorates from CSUN [2016]

CSUN’s Commerce of Creativity Hosts World Leader of Nonviolent Social Change [2015]

Civil Rights Leader the Rev. Lawson Continues to Teach on Nonviolence at CSUN [2014]

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