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Bernard LaFayette Oral History Project

Biographical Information

Bernard LaFayette, Jr. has been a Civil Rights Movement activist, minister, educator, lecturer, and is an authority on the strategy on nonviolent social change. He was one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. He was a leader of the Nashville Movement, 1960 and on the Freedom Rides, 1961 and the 1965 Selma Movement. He directed the Alabama Voter Registration Project in 1962, and he was appointed National Program Administrator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and National Coordinator of the 1968 Poor Peoples’ Campaign by Martin Luther King, Jr. In addition, Dr. LaFayette has served as Director of Peace and Justice in Latin America; Chairperson of the Consortium on Peace Research, Education and Development; Director of the PUSH Excel Institute; and minister of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tuskegee, Alabama.

An ordained minister, Dr. LaFayette earned his B.A. from the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, and his Ed.M. and Ed.D from Harvard University. He has served on the faculties of Auguatana College(Souix Falls, SD), Columbia Theological Seminary (Atlanta, GA) and Alabama State University (Montgomery), where he was Dean of the Graduate School; he also was principal of Tuskegee Institute High School in Tuskegee, Alabama and a teaching fellow at Harvard University.

His publications include the Curriculum and Training Manual for the Martin Luther King, Jr., Nonviolent Community Leadership Training Program, his doctoral thesis, Pedagogy for Peace and Nonviolence, and Campus Ministries and Social Change in the ‘60’s (Duke Divinity Review) and The Leaders Manual: A Structured Guide and Introduction to Kingian Nonviolence with David Jehnsen. Bernard LaFayette has traveled extensively to many countries as a lecturer and consultant on peace and nonviolence.

Dr. LaFayette is a former President of the American Baptist College of ABT Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee; Scholar in Residence at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia; and Pastor emeritus of the Progressive Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

He is the Founder and National President of God-Parents Clubs, Inc., a national community based program aimed at preventing the systematic incarceration of young Black youth; a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and founder of the Association For Kingian Nonviolence, Education and Training Works.

Dr. LaFayette is currently a Distinguished-Scholar-in-Residence and Director of the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies at the University of Rhode Island. He is the chairperson for the International Nonviolence Executive Planning Board. He has been re-appointed by Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri as the chairman for the Rhode Island Select Commission on Race and Police-Community Relations. A native of Tampa, Florida, Dr. LaFayette is married to the former Kate Bulls. (This bio was copied from URI's Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies web site).