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Mary Elizabeth King

Mary King

Conference Speaker for the Gandhi-King Global Initiative (GKGI) Conference: The Uplift of All: Gandhi, King, and the Global Struggle for Freedom and Justice; October 11-13, 2019

Mary Elizabeth King, Director of the James Lawson Institute, is professor of peace and conflict studies at the UN-affiliated University for Peace (main campus Costa Rica) and also Distinguished Rothermere American Institute Fellow at the University of Oxford, Britain. A political scientist, she is author of five acclaimed books on civil resistance, including Freedom Song: A Personal Story of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, New York, William Morrow, 1987, and most recently Gandhian Nonviolent Struggle and Untouchability in South India: The 1924–25 Vykom Satyagraha and the Mechanisms of Change, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2015. Her academic specialty in the study of nonviolent action dates to her decision at age 22 to work for the U.S. civil rights movement, first in Atlanta and then Mississippi, on staff of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pron. snick) in the 1960s. Aged 23, she spent Christmas in Atlanta’s city jail “Big Rock.” Working closely with Ella Baker and Julian Bond, while learning the basics of nonviolent struggle from the Reverend James M. Lawson, this profound four-year experience would define her life. She is co-author of the historical document “Sex and Caste,” published by Liberation magazine in April 1966, which resulted from conversations among women SNCC organizers. It is considered a catalyst for the women’s liberation movement of what is now called second-wave feminism. As a presidential appointee for four years in the Carter administration, King had worldwide oversight for the Peace Corps (in 60 countries) and Volunteers in Service to America (Vista). In 2003 in Mumbai, India, King accepted the Jamnalal Bajaj International Prize, named for Gandhi’s silent financial backer. In 2011, she received the El-Hibri Peace Education Prize for leadership in Peace Education; her alma mater Ohio Wesleyan University bestowed on her an honorary doctor of laws degree; and she was given the equivalent of an honorary degree when elected a Fellow by Aberystwyth University, Wales, Britain, where she did her doctoral work in international politics. That same year, she received the James M. Lawson Award for Nonviolent Achievement. She serves on the board of the Albert Einstein Institution, Boston. Visit her website:


Read her recent writing on Gandhi here:

"How South Africa forced Gandhi to reckon with racism and imperialism"

"Can we celebrate Gandhi's achievements while also learning from his errors?"


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