James Bevel – Black History Weekly Wednesday

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James Bevel worked with Martin Luther King Jr as a civil rights activist, who at the age of 72 was convicted of committing incest with one of his daughters, just before he died later that year on December 19, 2008

James Bevel - Black History Weekly Wednesday

James Bevel Helped Setup the Children’s Crusade

Born in Itta Bena, Mississippi on October 19, 1936, James Bevel became a civil rights activist and played a part in setting up the children’s crusade in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963–which was a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement.

But before this, Bevel shared a home with 16 of his brothers and sisters, spent some time working in the steel mills of Cleveland, Ohio, and served in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1954 to 1955.

But Bevel felt he was being called to another path and became a Baptist minister in 1959 while working as a singer. He started at the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee.

James Bevel - Black History Weekly Wednesday

Becoming A Civil Rights Activist

James Bevel began staging sit-in protest against segregated businesses after learning about nonviolent methods of social activism at Tennessee’s Highlander Folk School in addition to taking a student activist training course.

In conjunction with John Lewis and Diane Nash, James Bevel became a leading activist in the Nashville student movement, and helped found a civil rights group called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960.

Diane Nash and James Bevel married the same year he graduated from seminary school in 1961. The following year, the couple relocated from Nashville to Albany, Georgia, but James continued to fight against racial prejudice and the segregation of African Americans.

In 1963, Bevel became a director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was headed by Martin Luther King Jr. James persuaded Martin to allow students to participate in protesting in the Birmingham, Alabama march, which became known as the “children’s crusade.” Seeing African-American children being struck and arrested by police ignited the greater public to support the entire Civil Rights Movement.

James Bevel - Black History Weekly Wednesday

After Martin Luther Kings Death, James Bevel…

James remained with SCLC for a while after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. However, he also began to tell people that James Earl Ray–the main convicted of killing King—was not the real assassin. James also came up with the idea of testing people for their loyalty by having them drink his urine. The organization at this point had enough of Bevel’s upsetting episodes and ultimately cut ties with Bevel.

During the 1980’s, Bevel’s politics took a change of direction toward the Republican Party and became a supporter of Ronald Regan’s campaign for the presidency and the critic of affirmative action. In 1995, Bevel’s activism involved assisting Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan with the Million Man March.

James Bevel - Black History Weekly Wednesday

Bevel’s Criminal Conviction and Death

After Bevel’s marriage ended with Diane Nash, he married three other women, becoming the father of 16 children from seven different women. His daughter, Aaralyn Mills, accused Bevel of molesting her as a child in the 1990’s when she was a teenager. Bevel was convicted of incest in April of 2008, and died later that year on December 19, 2008 at the age of 72 from pancreatic cancer in Springfield, Virginia.

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‘Til the next episode!

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