Biography

Bernard Lafayette Jr.

Bernard Lafayette Jr.

Freedom Rider Tampa, FL

Twenty-year-old Bernard Lafayette hailed from Tampa, FL and was enrolled as an undergraduate at Nashville's American Baptist Theological Seminary. A veteran of the Nashville sit-ins, Lafayette had already staged a successful impromptu Freedom Ride with his close friend and fellow student activist John Lewis in 1959, while traveling home for Christmas break, when they decided to exercise their rights as interstate passengers by sitting in the front of a bus from Nashville, TN to Birmingham, AL.

As part of the May 17 Nashville Student Movement Ride, Lafayette endured jail time in Birmingham, riots and firebombings in Montgomery, AL, an arrest in Jackson, MS and jail time at Parchman State Prison Farm during June 1961.

After the end of the Freedom Riders campaign, he worked on voting rights and helped to coordinate the 1968 Poor Peoples Campaign. He completed a doctorate in Education at Harvard University and for several years was the Director of the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies at the University of Rhode Island. He currently teaches at Emory University and conducts nonviolent workshops worldwide.

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