Professional Career


Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

This collection contains the papers of renowned professor, activist, and Civil Rights movement organizer Rev. James Lawson, Jr. The Papers are comprised of close to 80 linear feet of manuscript materials including documents, correspondence, and photographs. Realia/memorabilia in this collection include awards, academic gowns, and other keepsakes.

The dates for these materials range from the late 1920’s when Reverend Lawson was born (September 1928) until the present time and the establishment of the James Lawson Institute for the Research and Study of Nonviolent Movements at Vanderbilt University in early 2022.

Items relating to events in his life such as the Nashville Sit-Ins of 1960; the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968; and his long ministry in the United Methodist Church are importantly represented in this collection.

The papers are arranged in these series: Correspondence Biographical and Personal Interviews and Writings by JML Writings about JML Early Life and Education -Baldwin-Wallace College -Korean War/Federal Prison -India -Oberlin School of Theology -Vanderbilt and the Nashville Sit-Ins -Boston University School of Theology Professional Career -Centenary United Methodist Church, Memphis, Tennessee -Holman United Methodist Church, Los Angeles, California -Church Committees -Lawson Live! -Return to Vanderbilt -Engagements (1951 – 2011) -Sermons Activities and Organizations Writings by Others Collection of Publications Subject Files Photographs Oversize Materials -Photograph Albums, Scrapbooks, Posters, Awards -Awards and Plaques


  • 1862 - 2021

Access Restrictions

This collection is currently being digitized, and some of the materials are unavailable for research. Please contact Special Collections if you are interested in viewing the collection.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection may be viewed only in the reading room of Special Collections in the Jean and Alexander Heard Library. Collections should be requested 2-3 days prior to visiting in order to facilitate easier access. For questions or to request a collection, contact


From the Collection: 73 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Library
1101 19th Ave. S.
Nashville TN 37212 United States


About this Site

This site contains collection guides, or finding aids, to the archival collections held by Vanderbilt University Special Collections and University Archives, the History of Medicine Collection, and the Scarritt Bennett Center. Finding aids describe the context, arrangement, and structure of archival materials, allowing users to identify and request materials relevant to their research.

Requesting Materials

Each finding aid contains a link to request materials from the collections. Collections can also be requested by emailing the repository directly through the library website. Each repository has its own location, hours, and contact information. Please consult the repository with questions about using the materials. Collections are non-circulating and must be used in the repository’s reading room. In many cases, the collections are stored off-site and require advance notice for retrieval.