Posted in Sit Ins

C.T. Vivian

Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian was another leader during the Civil Rights Movement. He would use his preaching to spread the idea of equality throughout all mankind.

His mother and grandmother were huge influences and made him what he is still today. His family first run into bad luck was when they lost their farm during the Depression. Next, arson would destroy one of their homes and his grandmother and mother would raise their families without a male influence. Instead of letting that get in the way of their lives, they used it to help guide C.T. into the educated, self-confident leader is today.


Here is a video of C.T. Vivian describing what it was like to grow up on a farm:


Vivian was born July 28, 1924, in Boonville, Missouri. He was the only child of Robert Cordie and Euzetta Tindell Vivian. At a young age he moved to Macomb, Illinois with his mother and grandmother in 1930. They picked Macomb because it had non-segregated schools and a local college. He started his leadership skills at Macomb High School. After high school, he attended Western Illinois University, but decided to leave college and move to Peoria to work at the Carver Community Center as the assistant boys’ director.

He met his wife, Octavia Geans, at the same center he worked at. They had six children together and one another from a previous relationship of Vivian’s.

In 1947, Vivian participated in his first non-violent protest, where he successfully desegregated all the lunch counters in Peoria. Peoria was also where he decided to devote his life to the ministry. He believed that religion and the Civil Rights Movement worked hand-in-hand because “racism is a moral issue.” His church believed in his capability and helped him enroll in the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee in 1955.

While there, he worked with many of the future leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, such as Diane Nash and John Lewis. Vivian, Nash and Lewis were the founders of the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference. These courageous leaders were the first to organize sit-ins in the city.


C.T. Vivian, Diane Nash and John Lewis
C.T. Vivian, Diane Nash and John Lewis in Nashville.


In this picture, Vivian, Nash and Lewis led 4,000 demonstrators on a march to Nashville’s City Hall where they established that  Mayor Ben West agreed that racial discrimination was morally wrong.

In 1960, Vivian joined and became a leader in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He is most known for leading the Freedom Riders of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). He was arrested with other SNCC protesters in Jackson, Mississippi and was transferred to Parchman Prison Farm. Many were beaten and tortured while held here.

Martin Luther King Jr. appointed Vivian as the Director of Affiliates for the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) in 1961, where he was responsible for coordinating all the activities happening in the different branches nationwide.

Vivian has now lived in Atlanta, Georgia for more than three decades. He still active in his ministry and always is trying to improve racial issues we deal with today.

Sad to say I could not find any specific information on what he did for the Atlanta sit-ins at Rich’s Department Store.

If anyone has any information they would like to share about C.T. Vivian, feel free to leave comments below!




I am a senior at Kennesaw State University and I am a Communication Major.

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