Professor Mike Sisterom invited Brandon, who was an early participant in the Greensboro sit-ins, to address his class, and Brandon invited Johnson to come with him.
Students have been reading William Chafe's accounts of the movements in Greensboro, and Monday's lecture helped expand on what they've been learning. Johnson spoke about the Greensboro Association of Poor People, the Dudley-A&T revolt of 1969, the Malcolm X Liberation University, drew connections to Occupy Wall Street and talked about how his opinions have changed.
"The [Occupy Wall Street] movement as a whole was born out of necessity," Johnson said. "It really represents something bubbling under the soil. I think they've invited the nation to become a classroom."
Speaking about black power, Johnson said the movement grew out of a rejection of white paternalism and was a period of the black community looking inwards to determine its future, later growing to incorporate Pan-Africanism.
In Greensboro, the struggle included working with other black organizations, like the NAACP, and organizing workers, students and tenants in particular. Various groups Johnson was involved in led a successful strike of A&T cafeteria workers, brought together tenants to fight collectively in GAPP and created statewide black student group as well as the national Student Organizing for Black Unity.
"This kind of thing is dangerous to write about because people will look back and see what they're capable of doing," he said.
Johnson spoke for the majority of the class time, with some space for questions and a few remarks from Brandon at the opening and closing. The event was open to the public, and a few staff members were in the audience of 20.
Pictured: Reverend Nelson Johnson addresses the classroom, as Lewis Brandon looks on. Both work at the Beloved Community Center. Photo by Eric Ginsburg.