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Image: Original caption: James Farmer, Director of CORE sits in his office at 38 Park Row in New York City. June 20, 1964.  Copyright: Bettmann/Corbis.

James Farmer, Jr.

Date: 
June 11, 1964
Related Documents: 
James Farmer, Jr.
James Farmer, Jr. Bio

James L. Farmer, Jr. (1920-1999) was a civil rights activist and politician. Born in Marshall, Texas, Farmer attended Wiley College and Howard University's School of Religion. While at Howard, Farmer was introduced to and embraced Gandhi's philosophy of non-violent direct action. In 1942, with a white friend and a few others, Farmer founded the Committee on Racial Equality, later called the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), after they successfully staged a sit-in demonstration in front of a Jack Spratt's Coffee Shop in Chicago that had refused to serve a mixed-race group of customers. After World War II, before he started working full-time for CORE, Farmer worked as the race relations secretary for the pacifist organization Fellowship of Reconciliation and worked as a program director for the NAACP. Farmer led CORE members in projects designed to protest segregation in public schools and to insist on African Americans' right to enter theaters, coffee shops, swimming pools, and other segregated public places. In 1961 Farmer and CORE initiated the Freedom Rides, through which they protested segregated travel facilities in the South. Farmer was arrested on several occasions for his participation. In 1968 Farmer unsuccessfully ran for Congress; the following year he joined President Richard Nixon's administration as Assistant Secretary in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He left the post in 1970, contending that he could have a larger impact by working in the private sector. Farmer received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1998.

Image: Original caption: James Farmer, Director of CORE sits in his office at 38 Park Row in New York City. June 20, 1964.  Copyright: Bettmann/Corbis.

Abstract

Farmer describes the foundation of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and its primary aims, contending that most African Americans are concerned more with ending oppression than with integration. Farmer explains how and when quotas might be necessary to prevent resegregation. Farmer voices his support for integrating schools to the degree possible, and he describes racial violence in Mississippi. He also recalls Medgar Evers' efforts to evade such violence. Farmer contends that civil rights activists need the assistance and talents of both black and white people, and he discusses the leadership and tactics of the civil rights movement. Farmer considers differences of class among African Americans working in the civil rights movement, and he also discusses the extent to which working-class African Americans have assumed leadership roles. Farmer discusses Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and John F. Kennedy, and he describes recent efforts to secure a civil rights moratorium until the conclusion of the 1964 general election. He also discusses CORE's role in the civil rights movement and his wish that more African Americans would contribute funds to the movement. Farmer also discusses the 1964 Democratic Convention and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party's participation in that convention. 

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