The Rev. James Lawson Jr., widely regarded as a pioneer of nonviolent tactics in the American civil rights movement, will speak from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, at the North Gym (Room 118). The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described Lawson as “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world.”

Dr. Veena Howard, Fresno State’s coordinator of the Peace and Conflict Studies program, whose recent research focuses on Gandhi and his influence on the American civil rights movement, sees Lawson as someone who gives new meaning and context to Gandhi’s method of nonviolence.

“It is very exciting that our students and community will have this opportunity to meet with a living embodiment of the power of love-force who has worked alongside many leaders in the Valley, including Cesar Chavez,” Howard said.

Dr. Andrew Fiala, chair of the Philosophy Department, spoke to why Lawson’s visit is so timely and important: “We’ve seen a lot of hate, intolerance and violence in recent months, as well as rapidly evolving grassroots activism. Some campuses have experienced violent protests. The time is ripe for us to understand the ethics of peace and the power of nonviolence. Fresno State has a strong and abiding commitment to nonviolence and peace philosophy, as seen in the Peace Garden, which lies in the center of our campus. Rev. Lawson will inspire students and the community with a deeper understanding of the need to use peaceful means in the struggle for justice.”

In conjunction with the presentation on Feb. 23, there will be a screening of two documentaries – “A Force More Powerful” and “Love and Solidarity” – and a discussion of these films with Lawson from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22, in the Peters Building (Room 191).

The events are free and open to the public.

Co-sponsors for Lawson’s talk include the College of Arts and Humanities; the Henry Madden Library, The Womack Fund; the Ethics CenterPeace and Conflict Studies ProgramPhilosophy DepartmentPresident’s Commission on Human Relations and EquityCross Cultural and Gender Center; United Hindu Coalition of Central California; Africana Studies; Harnish Fund; and the Gandhi Memorial Education Fund.

For more information, contact Dr. Veena Howard at 559.435.2621 or