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Civil Rights Icon Rev. C.T. Vivian Has Passed Away

The legendary Reverend C.T. Vivian — a Civil Rights icon who worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference organization he co-founded — has passed away. He was 95 years old.

Over the last 60 years, Vivian’s work towards creating a more just, equitable society for Black people is almost incalculable. His journey began in the 1940s in Peoria, Illinois, where he participated on sit-in demonstrations as a young man. In 1955, he met his longtime friend and collaborator King while working on the Montgomery Bus Boycott — one of the Civil Rights Movement’s first major public victories.

Vivian was also a preacher, who studied theology at American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee. He organized Nashville’s first sit-ins, later joined the Freedom Rides in Mississippi and served the SCLC as its interim president. Vivian received the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

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“There must always be the understanding of what Martin had in mind for this organization,” Vivian said in a 2012 interview. “Nonviolent, direct action makes us successful. We learned how to solve social problems without violence. We cannot allow the nation or the world to ever forget that.”

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