Civil rights icons Diane Nash, Fred Gray awarded Medal of Freedom by President Joe Biden

July 8, 2022
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Civil rights icons Diane Nash and Fred Gray on Thursday afternoon were awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Joe Biden.

Nash and Gray both have ties to Nashville were among 15 others who received the award.

The Medal of Freedom is awarded to people who made significant contributions in the U.S. or internationally in politics, philanthropy, science, sports, the arts and other arenas.

In 1959, Nash, a Chicago native, arrived in Nashville to attend Fisk University. She led sit-ins at Nashville lunch counters, marching to the courthouse plaza, now named for her, to confront the mayor. Nash also coordinated freedom rides when violence threatened participants and, while pregnant, was jailed in Mississippi for teaching minors nonviolence protest tactics.

She was elected chairperson of the Nashville movement and was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

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