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Gandhi...Saint or Sinner?

Visions of Justice: Gandhi at 150

Gandhi...Saint or Sinner?

Society subjects public figures to scrutiny, usually contemporaneously. Mahatma Gandhi is an exception. Now, more than 70 years after his death, pointed criticisms of his work and his person are arising. They disturb the picture we have of Gandhi. Charles DiSalvo, a Gandhi biographer, faces these new criticisms and asks:

  • Does the historical record support these criticisms?
  • By what standards should public figures like Gandhi be judged?
  • Is Gandhi a hero or a villain? A saint or a sinner?

2019 marks 150 years since the birth of Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi. Known worldwide for his approach to resisting British colonialism with nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi’s philosophy has also had a profound influence on figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. It is important that, 150 years after his birth, we celebrate and contemplate Gandhi the teacher, the activist, the scholar and the humanitarian in a way that provides a rich, full perspective on his life, work and legacy. This year, the Gandhi-King Lecture Series will include several speakers with expertise on Gandhi and culminate on Thursday, Oct. 3 with Barry Gan, world-renowned scholar and lecturer on nonviolence, delivering the Gandhi-King Lecture on International Relations and Peace Studies .

About the Speaker

Charles DiSalvo

Charles DiSalvo is the Woodrow A. Potesta Professor of Law at WVU and the author of the ground-breaking Gandhi biography “M.K. Gandhi, Attorney at Law: The Man Before the Mahatma.” He teaches one of the few law school courses in the United States on civil disobedience. He has represented civil disobedients in state and federal trial and appellate courts, written widely on the subject of civil disobedience and the law, and lectured on the subject here and abroad. DiSalvo was educated at St. John Fisher College (BA, history), Claremont Graduate School (MA, East Asian studies) and the University of Southern California (JD), where he was a member of the Southern California Law Review. Upon his graduation from law school, he was awarded a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellowship to practice poverty law for the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky. He came to WVU after serving as a Bigelow Teaching Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School. In addition to teaching a course on civil disobedience and the law, he teaches courses on civil procedure and trial advocacy. He has won college, university, state and national awards for his teaching. He is the co-founder of the West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest.