James Lawson helped to shape U.S. history by committing nonviolence

Bill Conroy
3 min readJun 11, 2024
James Lawson presenting the 2016 James Lawson Awards in Boston. His death today reminds us of what he stood for in life.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Rev. James Lawson Jr., an apostle of nonviolent protest who schooled activists to withstand brutal reactions from white authorities as the Civil Rights Movement gained traction, has died, his family said Monday [June 10, 2024]. He was 95.

Jim Lawson was a large, quiet man with a head full of grey hair and a mind that could pierce bullets.

We didn’t hit it off at our initial meeting in Merida, the largest city on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. I’m sure I came off as a skeptic on the subject of the effectiveness of nonviolence.

I simply didn’t understand at the time that, in fact, it’s a strategy that is more effective (assessed statistically) at producing lasting social change than are social movements built on violence — where even a victory often leads to the winner becoming the new tyrant on the block.

I listened to Jim Lawson, and we grew on each other as the Merida workshop progressed. From that point onward, my views on the potential for nonviolent movements to win the day changed. He had won over a pragmatist.

Over the next several years, we encountered each other again when the workshops were held near Tepoztlan — an indigenous community that was a hideout for social-movement organizer Abbie Hoffmann when he was on the run from U.S. authorities in…



Bill Conroy

Bill Conroy is an independent investigative journalist. For more information, check out billconroy.pressfolios.com.