C. T. Vivian

From KeyWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
C. T. Vivian

Rev. C. T. (Cordy Tindell) Vivian is a minister, author, and organizer. A leader in the Civil Rights Movement and friend to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he participated in Freedom Rides and sit-ins across our country. Dr. C. T. Vivian also helped found numerous civil rights organizations, including Vision, the National Anti-Klan Network, and the Center for Democratic Renewal. In 2012, he returned to serve as interim President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The New School for Social Research named Dr. C. T. Vivian “… spiritual leader, apostle of social justice, strategist of the civil rights movement … For decades he has been in the vanguard of the struggle for racial equality in America”, as they presented him with one of his many honorary doctorates.

Dr. Vivian is the founder of BASIC Diversity, Inc. (BASIC) a full service diversity consultancy that has been operating nationally for thirty-nine (39) years. BASIC helps organizations leverage the benefits and minimize the challenges created by a diverse workforce by creating environments where people can effectively collaborate across cultural differences. BASIC’s client list includes some of the most recognizable brands on the planet. They are best known for its Race Awareness Workshop, which has been evaluated as the most effective race relations program in America.

Dr. Vivian was once a Christian journalist. However, he is best known for his work with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was National Director of Affiliates, and strategist for every Southern Christian Leadership Conference organization. He truly helped change the nation: His work in Birmingham helped win the Civil Rights Bill; in Selma, the Voting Rights Bill; and he was deeply involved in other movements such as Nashville, TN; Danville, VA; St. Augustine, FL; and Chicago, IL. Dr. Vivian had won his first non-violent direct action movement in 1947 opening restaurants in Peoria, IL.

He is featured throughout PBS’s acclaimed documentary “Eyes On The Prize” (1987 & 2006). PBS later produced a full-length presentation, “The Healing Ministry of the Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian”. He is also featured as both an activist and analyst in the series, The People’s Century (PBS/WGBH, 1998), and in the Tom Brokaw documentary “King” (History Channel, 2008).

After leaving Dr. King’s Executive Staff, Dr. Vivian trained ministers and developed the urban curriculum for seminaries throughout the nation at the Urban Training Center in Chicago. He returned to the realm of seminary education as the Dean of Divinity at Shaw University Seminary. There he originated and acquired funding for an original national level program, the basis of his doctoral work, Seminary Without Walls.

In 2008, Vivian founded the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute, Inc. to create a model leadership culture for the purpose of training and educating the new generation of grass-roots leaders inspired to mobilize a constituency. The Institute is based out of Atlanta, Georgia. More recently, Dr. Vivian received an Honorary Doctorate from Morehouse College (2010), served as National President of S.C.L.C. (2012), and currently serves as Dean of The Urban Institute at The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA.[1]

Letter to Judge Thapar asking for leniency for the Oakridge 3

C. T. Vivian signed a letter dated January 9 2014 asking for leniency for the "Oakridge 3":[2]

January 9, 2014
The Honorable Amul R. Thapar United States District Judge 800 Market Street, Suite 130 Knoxville, TN 37902
Dear Judge Thapur: The Defending Dissent Foundation is a 53 year old civil liberties organization that recognizes the value of dissent in a vibrant democracy. As such, we regard the actions of Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli on July 28, 2012 as nonviolent civil disobedience in the finest American tradition. Therefore, we respectfully request that you exercise your right to judicial discretion in sentencing these three individuals. The Defending Dissent Foundation takes no position on nuclear weapons facilities or the content of the protest, but it is clear that the three sought to call attention to an issue of national importance and, through symbolic action, voice their concern and opposition. Their goal never was to harm anyone, and no one was harmed. The fact that the three were able to find their way into the facility and reach the uranium storage unit reflects the abysmal security system of the facility. These activists should not be held liable for the closure of the plant for two weeks to address security lapses. It should not be a factor in their sentencing. Non-violent civil resistance and civil disobedience have long played an important role in our democracy, bringing important issues to the public sphere and advancing our society toward justice, freedom and peace. Like others who have undertaken such action, Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli are willing to serve time in jail, which they have done without complaint. However, to sentence the three to terms of up to twelve years would be an injustice. In your October 1, 2013 Memorandum Opinion and Order you wrote, “Of course, the defendants’ non-violence will be relevant at sentencing, since the Court must account for both the “nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics” of the defendants… Given the obvious differences between the defendants and the paradigmatic saboteur, those factors surely will be worthy of discussion”. We applaud your wisdom and insight and strongly encourage you to sentence the three with downward departures from the sentencing guidelines.

Notable accomplishments

  • He has been summoned to provide civil rights counsel to five (5) different U.S. Presidential Administrations (Johnson, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama).
  • Served as part of a team of religious advisors to President Barack Obama during his successful 2008 campaign.
  • He has advised foreign Heads of State.
  • He has addressed the United Nations.
  • He has addressed the World Baptist Alliance as a keynote speaker during their conference on racism in the world community. *Shared the platform with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
  • Was Director of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “The best non-violent movement in the nation”.
  • Served on an independent UN Committee on Human Rights Education.
  • In one year alone he was highlighted in three books, two of which were authored by Pulitzer Prize winners and the other by a U.S. Congressman: The Children, David Habersham; Pillars of Fire, Taylor Branch; and Walking With The Wind, Congressman John Lewis.
  • Highly respected across the racial spectrum. His awards include: The Trumpet Award (2006), The National Jewish Labor Award, and The Martin L. King, Jr. Humanitarian Award.
  • He organized street gangs in Chicago, turning gang members away from violence, and developed a program that earned them jobs.
  • He was National Deputy Director of Clergy for Jesse Jackson’s 1984 Presidential bid.
  • Has made several human rights assistance visits to Cuba and has personally met with President Fidel Castro.[3]

National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee

Circa 1962, Vice Chairmen of the Communist Party USA front, National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee were:[4]

Chicago Freedom Movement

In 1966 Father William Hogan, a Communist Party USA supporter, served as recording secretary of the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations, the group that, together with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, formed the Chicago Freedom Movement, which led the massive civil disobedience direct action campaign of the summer of 1966 in Chicago.

Hogan said that while King was "first among equals," the composition of the CFM staff was exceptional and reflected the scope of the movement: James Bevel, C. T. Vivian, Al Sampson, James Orange, Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young, who went on to become mayor of Atlanta and later U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

According to Hogan..."All were veterans of major battles in the South," he said, adding that key players from Chicago included Edwin Berry of the Urban League, Bob Lucas of CORE and Carl Fuqua of the NAACP.

"In addition to traditional civil rights organizations, CFM included representatives from the religious and liberal communities. Some of the unions affiliated with AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department provided staff assistance.[5]

Southern Organizing Committee for Racial and Economic Justice

Heather Gray served on the board of the Southern Organizing Committee for Racial and Economic Justice that Anne Braden co-chaired along with Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. The organization " was one of the few that provided the opportunity for us to think and act regionally and to make the essential connections of the myriad of issues we faced. From the 1980’s and on the meetings were always filled with a diversity of black, white and eventually Latino activists in the region".

We would sit for hours in New Orleans, Montgomery or Birmingham to strategize on various issues, activities and mistakes we’ve made then and in the past. We would also listen, learn and occasionally join in while the legendary leaders in our midst discussed and analyzed the dynamics of white supremacy, racial politics generally and labor challenges in the South. Anne was never without offering a lengthy epistle about anything until the wee hours of the night along with her ever-present cigarettes! These sessions were often both grueling and enlightening. They were not only a history lesson but also a socialization process into the tactics of southern civil rights activism and Anne understood the importance of this. She wanted to pass this information on to all of us and to keep the momentum going at every conceivable juncture. The meetings were a roll call of southern leaders and activists the likes of Reverend C. T. Vivian, Jack O'Dell, Gwen Patton, Virginia Durr, Reverend Fred Taylor, Reverend James Orange, Connie Tucker, John Zippert, Jackie Ward, Reverend Benjamin Chavis, Charlie Orrock, Ann Romaine, Damu Smith, Jim Dunn, Judy Hand, Scott Douglas, Ron Chisholm, Spiver Gordon, Pat Bryant, Tirso Moreno and countless others.[6]

Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights

In 1970, the Board of Directors of the then Communist Party USA front Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights consisted of Rev. Frederic E. Sau, Harry Barnard, Boris Brail, Edward Carey, Milt Cohen, Ernest DeMaio ,Rev.William D. Faw, Richard Galloway, Prof. Charles H. George, Prof. Margaret Y. George, Ben Green, Pearl Hart, Dr. Hyman J. Hirshfield, David C. Jensen, Daniel Kaufman, Rev. S. Hunter Leggitt, Harry Mack, Rev. Daniel J. Malette, Lafayette Marsh, Rev. Francis J. McGrath, Akiro Makino , Ruth Muench, Isadore Pomerantz, Jesse Prosten, Don Rose, Norman Roth, Dr. Boris Rubenstein, Evelyn Salk, Thomas Slater, Walter Soroka, Jack Spiegel, Prof. William Starr, Lynward Stevenson, Edmonia Swanson, Gil Terry, Rev.C. T. Vivian, Otto Wander, Rabbi Burr Yampol, Dr. Quentin Young[7].

Defending Dissent

As of Oct 3 2009 C T Vivian was listed as a Board Member of Defending Dissent.[8] Defending Dissent is made up of what used to be the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation. Vivian was also listed as a Vice-Chairperson of the Committee of the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation, circa 1965.[9]

Tim Wheeler account

Communist Party USA member Tim Wheeler got to know Rev. Vivian in March 2005 when he was assigned by the People's Weekly World, to cover the Edmund Pettus Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Ala. This was a march commemorating the 40th anniversary of the brutal attack on voting rights marchers crossing that bridge on their way to the state capitol in Montgomery, Ala., to demand equal voting rights. Alabama state troopers brutally attacked the marchers on March 7, 1965, nearly clubbing to death John Lewis, D-Ga., then the national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

That attack backfired badly on Alabama Gov. George Wallace. Scenes of the vicious attack were aired on network television, touching off nationwide outrage. A few months later, Congress approved and President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, clearing the way, ultimately, for thousands of African Americans to win election to public office, most notably President Obama.

Rev. Vivian was present at the opening shot of that struggle, leading a march Feb. 16, 1965, to the courthouse in the nearby town of Marion, seat of Perry County, to protest the arrest of Rev. James Orange, a leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The police had been instructed to target Rev. Vivian, also an SCLC leader. After the police assault, the marchers scattered. Marcher Jimmie Lee Jackson hid with his mother in a closed and darkened café. State Trooper James Fowler tracked Jackson down and shot him to death as Jackson attempted to cover his mother with his own body.

Outrage over the police murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson triggered the first attempt to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Forty years later, March 5, 2005, I joined thousands of marchers peacefully marching across the bridge. The main demand of the march was renewal, without weakening amendments, of the Voting Rights Act. Specifically, the march demanded renewal of the "pre-clearance" clause. This was a section of the law that requires states with a history of voter discrimination to submit any changes in its voting procedures for review by the U.S. Justice Department. President George W. Bush and the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill had unleashed a "charm offensive" even as they maneuveured to undermine the Voting Rights Act. They had assigned a delegation led by Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to join the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. But the marchers were not fooled.
When we reached the east end of the bridge, there was Rev. Vivian standing in the midst of the crowd, a look of joy on his face. I asked him for an interview. "Don't take voting rights for granted," he told me, referring to the theft in Florida of the 2000 presidential election. "We took it for granted that if we had the right to register and vote, our votes would be counted. We never imagined that 40 years later we would have to launch a whole new struggle. But we now know that many poor people never had their votes counted in the 2000 election or in the 2004 election. Given the character of the people now in power, we can have no confidence that our votes are being counted."
Rev. C. T. Vivian, right, poses with Tim Wheeler outside the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver
I interviewed Vivian by phone several times after that. In the summer of 2008, I was in Denver covering the Democratic National Convention that nominated Barack Obama for president. I was standing outside the Colorado Convention Center passing out copies of the People's Weekly World when who walked up but C. T. Vivian. We greeted each other warmly and I handed him a copy of the PWW. Someone with a camera was about to click our picture. "Wait a minute," he said, shifting the paper so it was plainly visible under his arm. That's my fondest memory of the Rev. C. T. Vivian, a real hero of the people's movement.
He is still in the thick of the fight for voting rights and for full equality even as the Republicans do all in their power to strip people of that vital tool of democracy. As he told me in 2005, "We have to march all over again."

Medal of Freedom

At a White House ceremony Nov. 20, 2013, President Barack Obama conferred the Presidential Medal of Freedom on the Rev. C. T. Vivian, one of the nation's staunchest fighters for racial equality and voting rights.

Vivian was one of 16 recipients of the award this past Wednesday, including former President Bill Clinton, and television personality Oprah Winfrey. Obama hailed Vivian for serving as one of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s closest advisers and for putting his life on the line in the struggle to end segregation.


  1. CT Vivian Leadeship Inst.Reverend Dr. C.T. Vivian’s Biography
  2. https://www.scribd.com/document/197919376/Transform-Now-Plowshares-Sentencing-letter Kate Martin accessed December 10 2019
  3. CT Vivian Leadeship Inst.Reverend Dr. C.T. Vivian’s Biography
  4. National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee letterhead circa 1962
  5. http://communistpartyillinois.blogspot.com/2010/01/chicago-freedom-movement-summer-1966.html
  6. In Motion, “The South’s Rebel Without A Pause” Anne Braden’s Tireless Commitment by Heather Gray Atlanta, Georgia
  7. Full text of "The nationwide drive against law enforcement intelligence operations : hearing before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Ninety-fourth Congress, first session page 151
  8. Dissent website: About
  9. NCARL letter, circa October 1965