Civil-rights icon to headline free program

Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, a Freedom Rider, to speak Feb. 22 in Coatesville

By Kathleen Brady SheaManaging Editor, The Times

Civil-rights icon, The Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, will speak on Feb. 22 at Coatesville Area Senior High.

Civil-rights icon, The Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, will speak on Feb. 22 at Coatesville Area Senior High.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – himself a renowned orator – reportedly called the Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian the greatest preacher he had ever heard, and now his voice is coming to Coatesville.

Rev. Vivian, a Freedom Rider and celebrated civil rights advocate, will speak at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, in the auditorium of Coatesville Area Senior High School. The free lecture is open to the public and will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

The event is sponsored by the Coatesville Area School District, the Coatesville NAACP, the Coatesville Historical Commission, and the Lilies and Pearls Cotillion, all of whom are excited to provide this opportunity.

Rev. Vivian’s appearance will kick off the 75th anniversary of the Coatesville NAACP. The organization’s theme this year – “Freely Agitating for Justice” – dovetails with a recurring message of the 88-year-old civil rights icon: “Don’t be passive in the face of racism, sexism or anyone being mistreated. People have the right for no other reason than that they are people to be treated fairly.”

Dr. Tonya Thames Taylor, president of Coatesville Area NAACP and a CASD school board director, said Rev. Vivian repeatedly demonstrated his incomparable commitment to civil rights, risking death on more than one occasion.

“We should consider it an honor and privilege to meet, converse, and be in the company of this living legend,” she said. “His name is associated with revolution. And, this great nation of ours is rooted in revolution against perceived tyranny. Therefore, every able-bodied human who loves justice and freedom should come to listen to someone who was beaten, jailed, and proved willing to die for freedom and access.”

Rev. Vivian participated in the first Freedom Rides in 1961 when buses traveled from Washington D.C. into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and other states. The mixed group of black and white, women and men, rode interstate buses, like Trailways and Greyhound, and challenged Jim Crow and the segregation of waiting rooms, restrooms, restaurants at stops along the way.

After studying at the American Baptist College, Rev. Vivian founded the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference, helping organize the city’s first sit-ins and civil rights marches in the early 1960s. He was beaten during some of his non-violent activities and jailed at least five times. Additionally, Vivian also faced violence serving as a “wade-in” activist as he challenged segregated beaches and pools in the American South.

In addition to authoring the 1970 book “Black Power and the American Myth,” he has provided civil rights counsel to five different presidential administrations. In 2008, he founded the C T. Vivian Leadership Institute to “create a model leadership culture.”

Coatesville Area Senior High School is located at 1425-45 E. Lincoln Hwy., in Coatesville. For more information, visit or

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