Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II along with Congressmen Ro Khanna, John Lewis, and James Clyburn, introduced legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to civil rights icon Reverend James Lawson. Rev. Lawson will be celebrating his 90th birthday this year. Rev. Lawson is recognized as one of the most consequential leaders of the civil rights movement.

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II

He spent three years in India as a missionary and studied Mahatma Gandhi’s strategy of nonviolent struggle before returning to the United States to become a leader in the Civil Rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called Lawson the “leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world.”

Rev. Lawson trained activists and launched the Nashville sit-ins to challenge segregation in downtown stores. He also helped develop the strategy for the Freedom Riders who rode buses in southern states to challenge segregated seating on public buses.

“Rev. James Lawson is one of the most influential African Americans in the 20th century. His non-violent stance influenced the direction of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. His fingerprints can be found on every major civil rights victory. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor,” said Congressman Cleaver.

“It is my great honor to sponsor this legislation to recognize the invaluable contributions that Reverend Lawson made, and continues to make, towards civil rights and social justice in this country.

The lessons he brought from Gandhi’s nonviolent movement not only strengthened the Civil Rights movement here in America but demonstrated the interconnected nature of the struggles of oppressed people around the world. The teachings of Lawson and Gandhi must continue to guide the work of social justice advocates today,” said Congressman Khanna. “I will work to ensure that we pass this much deserved recognition to one of our country’s great champions for justice, Reverend James Lawson.”

“As a founding Member of SNCC, I’m pleased to add my voice of support for this long overdue Congressional recognition of the many contributions and accomplishments of Reverend James Lawson in the struggle against oppression and segregation in America. His impact has been felt around the world, and I urge my colleagues in Congress to pass this legislation without delay,” said Rep. Clyburn.

Emanuel Cleaver, II is the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, which includes Kansas City, Independence, Lee’s Summit, Raytown, Grandview, Sugar Creek, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, North Kansas City, Gladstone, Claycomo, and all of Ray, Lafayette, and Saline Counties. He is a member of the exclusive House Financial Services Committee, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, and also a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus.