Cordy Tindell Vivian, usually known as C. T. Vivian (born July 30, 1924), is a minister, author, and was a close friend and lieutenant of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. during the American Civil Rights Movement. Vivian continues to reside in Atlanta, Georgia and most recently founded the C. T. Vivian Leadership Institute, Inc. He is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Vivian was born in Howard, Missouri. As a small boy he migrated with his mother to Macomb, Illinois, where he attended Lincoln Grade School and Edison Junior High School. Vivian graduated from Macomb High School in 1942 and went on to attend Western Illinois University in Macomb, where he worked as the sports editor for the school newspaper. His first professional job was recreation director for the Carver Community Center in Peoria, Illinois. There, Vivian participated in his first sit-in demonstrations, which successfully integrated Barton’s Cafeteria in 1947.
He helped found the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference, and helped organize the first sit-ins in Nashville in 1960 and the first civil rights march in 1961. Vivian rode the first “Freedom Bus” into Jackson, Mississippi, and went on to work alongside Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, Diane Nash, and others on SCLC’s Executive Staff in Birmingham, Selma,Chicago, Nashville, the March on Washington; Danville, Virginia, and St. Augustine, Florida. Some claim that the St. Augustine campaign helped lead to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Vivian’s role in it was honored when he returned to the city in 2008 to dedicate a Freedom Trail of historic sites of the Civil Rights Movement.
During the summer following the Selma Movement, Vivian conceived and directed an educational program, Vision, and put 702 Alabama students in college with scholarships (this program later became Upward Bound). His 1970 Black Power and the American Myth was the first book on the Civil Rights Movement by a member of Martin Luther King’s staff.
In the 1970s Vivian moved to Atlanta, and in 1977 founded the Black Action Strategies and Information Center (BASICS), a consultancy on multiculturalism and race relations in the workplace and other contexts. In 1979 he co-founded, with Anne Braden, the Center for Democratic Renewal (initially as the National Anti-Klan Network), an organization where blacks and whites worked together in response to white supremacist activity. In 1984 he served in Jesse Jackson‘s presidential campaign, as the national deputy director for clergy. In 1994 he helped to establish, and served on the board of Capitol City Bank and Trust Co., a black-owned Atlanta bank. He serves currently on the board of Every Church a Peace Church.