Diane Nash, a Chicago native, first became actively involved with the Civil Rights Movement in 1959 when she enrolled in Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. There, she came face to face with the pervasive segregation of the Jim Crow South for the first time in her life. Her unyielding determination and courageousness, coupled with her “flawless instincts,” quickly made her one of the most respected leaders of the sit-in movement in Nashville.
Nash's early efforts included orchestrating the first successful civil rights campaign to desegregate lunch counters, as well as helping to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a group that became one of the most influential during the Civil Rights Movement. Nash is widely recognized for her leadership in the Freedom Rides, a campaign to desegregate interstate travel. She worked tirelessly to recruit new Freedom Riders, and gain the support of national Movement leaders and the federal government. Nash played a key role in bringing Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. to Montgomery, Ala. on May 21, 1961 in support of the Freedom Riders.
Nash later played a major role in the Birmingham desegregation campaign of 1963 and the Selma Voting Rights Campaign of 1965. In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King awarded Nash and her husband, James Bevel, SCLC's Rosa Parks Award for their work. Nash remained active throughout the Civil Rights Movement and later in the Vietnam peace movement. In 1965, Nash returned to Chicago to work in education, real estate and fair housing advocacy. She began lecturing across the country on women’s rights in the early ‘70s and today remains a prominent voice for human rights.