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Bernard Lafayette Receives Lillian Smith Book Award for 2014

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Published on Jan 10, 2015

Bernard Lafayette is the author of "In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma."

In the summer of 1962, LaFayette accepted a position with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to do organizing work in Selma, Alabama. Upon arriving in the city, he began leading meetings at which he spoke about the condition of African Americans in the South and encouraged local African Americans to share their experiences. On the night of June 12, 1963, (the same night that Medgar Evers was murdered in Mississippi), Lafayette was severely beaten by a white assailant. In late 1964, the board of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) decided to join the ongoing Alabama Project organized by James Bevel, Diane Nash, and James Orange, and chose Selma as the focal point to gain voting rights for African Americans. In early 1965, Lafayette, Bevel, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Orange, Nash and others organized a series of public demonstrations that finally—with the march from Selma-to-Montgomery initiated by Bevel—put enough pressure on the federal government to take action and pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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