In Remembrance of C.T. Vivian

Rev. Cordy Tindell Vivian, an author, minister, and personal aid to civil rights leader, Martin Luther King passed away on July, 17th, 2020 at 95. 

In his early life, C.T. was born on July 30th, 1924 in Boonville, MO. After his migration to Illinois, he went on to attend Western Illinois University where he was the sports editor for the university’s school newspaper. 

Upon graduating from WIU, he went on to be the recreational director of a community center in a small town in Illinois called; Peoria. It was here where he began his journey as both a minister and Civil Rights Activist. 

In Peoria, C.T. participated in his first sit-in; a local restaurant. These sit-ins eventually allowed for the integration of the restaurant in 1947. 

In the 50’s, C.T. went on to study ministry at American Baptist College in Nashville, TN.

C.T. then became a Baptist minister and a member of Dr. King’s inner circle of advisers and in the 1960’s he was the founder and national director of 85 local affiliate chapters of the Southern Christan Leadership Conference (S.C.L.C.) from 1963 to 1966. With that position he directed protest activities and training in nonviolence as well as coordinated voter registration and community development projects. 

In cities such as Selma and Birmingham, Alabama, St. Augustine, Florida, and Jackson, Mississippi, Mr. Vivian led sit-ins at lunch counters, boycotts of businesses, and marches that continued for weeks or months. 

Rev. Vivian was also a part of the Freedom Rides. Like his allies, he was arrested often and, when jailed, beaten by guards. In 1961, he had a confrontation with an officer during a Freedom Ride from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi. Upon his arrival to Jackson, he was sent to Hings County Prison Farm and was beaten by guards. This is just one example of a time where Mr. Vivian put his life on the line during the fight for freedom. He would have similar experiences in the coming years. 

Vivian was a strong advocate of nonviolence when protesting. He led protesters through shrieking white mobs and, with discipline and endurance, absorbed the blows of segregationists and complicit law enforcement officials across the South.

“Nonviolence is the only honorable way of dealing with social change, because if we are wrong, nobody gets hurt but us” – C.T. Vivian 

His civil rights work continued for a half century. He became director of the Urban Training Center for Christian Mission in Chicago in 1966 and dean of the Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, N.C., in 1972.

In 1977, he founded the Black Action Strategies and Information Center in Atlanta to foster workplace race relations, and was a founder of the National Anti-Klan Network, which monitored hate groups. It was later renamed the Center for Democratic Renewal to reflect broader educational goals.

In 2013, C.T. Vivian received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Barack Obama. 

While this article only touches on a few moments in Mr. Vivian’s life, it could never encompass the true impact he left on America, especially in the Black community. He dedicated his life to the cause and made amazing strides in the fight for equality. Let his life inspire you to demand change and fight for what you believe in.

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