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William Stuart Nelson


William Stuart Nelson (1895-1977) was an expert on nonviolence, a civil rights activist, and university president.  Nelson was born in Paris, Kentucky.  Nelson served in the United States Army in World War I.  Following the war he studied at the University of Paris and the University of Berlin before earning his BD at Yale University in 1924.  In 1925 he became a professor of religion at Howard University.  In 1931 he became the first African American president of Shaw University.  Nelson would finish his academic career at Howard as Vice President of Special Projects in 1967.  During the civil rights movement he spoke at the Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change in 1959, and at the 1962 Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  He participated in the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965.  Following his death in 1977 his wife, Blanche Wright Nelson, published an essay about Nelson’s life in the Journal of Religious Thought, “A Tribute to My Husband.”

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