James M. Lawson, Jr. Papers

Identifier: MSS.0626

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

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.


  • 1862 - 2021

Conditions Governing Access

This collection has been digitized and can be viewed at jstor.org/site/vanderbilt/james-lawson-papers. The physical collection may be viewed only in the reading room of the Vanderbilt Special Collections 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 specialcollections@vanderbilt.edu.


73 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The James M. Lawson, Jr. Papers (1862-2021) contain the documents, correspondence, photographs, and artifacts of professor, activist, and Civil Rights movement organizer Rev. James Lawson, Jr. (b. 1928).


The papers are arranged in the following series:
I. Correspondence
II. Biographical and Personal
III. Honorary Degrees, Awards and Honors
IV. Interviews and Writings by JML
V. Writings about JML
VI. 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
VII. 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
VIII. Activities and Organizations
IX. Writings by Others
X. Collection of Publications
XI. Subject Files
XII. Photographs
XIII. Oversize Materials
  • Photograph Albums, Scrapbooks, Posters
XIV. Artifacts
  • Awards, Plaques, and Memorabilia
XV. Audiovisual Materials

Physical Location

Offsite Storage, Special Collections & Archives

Finding Aid for the James M. Lawson, Jr. Papers
Molly Dohrmann; Juanita Murray
March 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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.