C. T. Vivian is a long-time board member of the Defending Dissent Foundation. He is truly a living legend of the civil rights movement. Today he is being honored by the White House and receiving the the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Watch a short video where C.T. talks about how fighting civil liberties and civil rights are related. C.T. is the founder of the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute (CTVLI), an Atlanta-based non-profit organization that is dedicated to the development and sustainability of communities.
A little bit about C. T. from the CTVLI website: 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 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 (S.C.L.C.) 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. 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.