For Dr. Freddrick Leonard, joining the Nashville Student Movement in the fall of 1960 meant learning to suppress his instincts. As a high-schooler in Chattanooga, he sat in at lunch counters with other students, and they defended themselves when they were attacked. And his shift to non-violent protest was especially difficult. But even after years of practicing pacifism, that impulse to fight back was buried, but it wasn’t subdued. In this episode Dr. Leonard speaks with poet, hip-hop and spoken word artist Saran Thompson about the difficulty of conforming to the ideology of a movement, how he came to grapple with the limits of non-violence as an ideal, and how sometimes keeping focused on the work means accepting that other people will be the ones to reap the benefit. Then Saran takes the down and back again of Dr. Leonard’s pacifist journey and turns it into poetry.
Versify is a production of Nashville Public Radio and The Porch, Nashville’s nonprofit literary center. Editing for this episode came from WPLN’s Mack Linebaugh with additional editing by Anita Bugg. The episode was written, hosted, produced and recorded by Joshua Moore.
The music is by Blue Dot Session. The show is distributed by PRX.