James Jr.
African Americans' rights activist
James Jr.
James Leonard Farmer, Jr. was a civil rights activist and leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. He was the initiator and organizer of the 1961 Freedom Ride, which eventually led to the desegregation of inter-state transportation in the United States.
Biography
James L. Farmer, Jr.'s personal information overview.
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    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1999
    Age 79
    He led this organization until 1999.
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  • 1992
    Age 72
    Several issues of Fellowship magazine of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1992 (Spring, Summer and Winter issues) contained discussions by Farmer and George Houser about the founding of CORE.
    More Details Hide Details A conference at Bluffton College in Bluffton, Ohio, on Oct. 22, 1992, "Erasing the Color Line in the North", explored CORE and the origins of the Civil Rights Movement. Both Houser and Farmer attended. Academics and the participants unanimously agreed that the founders of CORE were Jim Farmer, George Houser and Bernice Fisher. The conference has been preserved on videotape available from Bluffton College. Lay Bare the Heart was not the first book Farmer wrote. He also wrote and tried to publish Religion and Racism. The publisher, Harper Brothers, rejected the book. The editor highly praised the book, but the profit and loss team at Harper Brothers rejected it. Farmer wrote and published Freedom-When in 1965.
  • 1984
    Age 64
    From 1984 through 1998, Farmer taught at Mary Washington College (now The University of Mary Washington) in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where a bust of him now stands on campus and the multicultural center is named after him. They also named a program after him that encouraged minority students to enroll and enter college. It is the James Farmer Scholars program. In 1998 President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
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  • FIFTIES
  • 1975
    Age 55
    In 1975 he co-founded Fund for an Open Society.
    More Details Hide Details Its vision is a nation in which people live in stably integrated communities, where political and civic power is shared by people of different races and ethnicities.
  • 1973
    Age 53
    He was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto II in 1973.
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  • 1971
    Age 51
    Farmer retired from politics in 1971 but remained active, lecturing and serving on various boards and committees.
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  • FORTIES
  • 1969
    Age 49
    His defeat was not total; in 1969 the newly elected President Richard Nixon offered him the position of Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now Health and Human Services).
    More Details Hide Details The next year, frustrated by the Washington bureaucracy, Farmer resigned from the position.
  • 1968
    Age 48
    In 1968 Farmer ran for U.S. Congress as a Liberal Party candidate backed by the Republican Party, but lost to Shirley Chisholm.
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  • 1966
    Age 46
    Growing disenchanted with emerging militancy and black nationalist sentiments in CORE, Farmer resigned as director in 1966.
    More Details Hide Details He took a teaching position at Lincoln University, a historically black college (HBCU), and continued to lecture.
  • 1963
    Age 43
    He was arrested in August 1963 for disturbing the peace.
    More Details Hide Details Farmer was considered one of the "big four" of the Civil Rights Movement.
  • 1961
    Age 41
    In 1961 Farmer, who was working for the NAACP, was reelected as the national director of CORE, at a time when the civil rights movement was gaining power.
    More Details Hide Details Despite the Irene Morgan Supreme Court decision and the Boynton decision, interstate buses were still segregated. Gordon Carey proposed the idea of a second Journey of Reconciliation. Farmer jumped at the idea. This time, however, the group planned to journey through the Deep South. Farmer coined a new name for the trip: the Freedom Ride. The plan was for a mixed race and gender group to test segregation on interstate buses. The group would spend time in Washington D.C. for intensive training. They would embark on May 4, 1961 half by Greyhound and half by Trailways. They would go through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and finish in New Orleans on May 17. For overnight stops there were planned rallies and support from the black community. There were usually talks at local churches or colleges.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1959
    Age 39
    After an unfortunate miscarriage, they finally had a little girl, Tami Lynn Farmer, born on February 14, 1959.
    More Details Hide Details Farmer talked to A. J. Muste, the executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), about an idea to combat racial inequality. Muste found the idea promising but wanted to see it in writing. Farmer spent months writing the memorandum making sure it was perfect. A. J. Muste wrote him back asking him about money to fund it and how they would get members. Finally, Farmer was asked to propose his idea in front of the FOR National Council. In the end, FOR chose not to sponsor the group, but gave Farmer permission to start the group in Chicago. When Farmer got back to Chicago, the group began setting up the organization. The name decided upon was CORE, the Committee of Racial Equality. The name was changed about a year later to the Congress of Racial Equality.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1942
    Age 22
    Farmer was the organization's first leader, serving as the national chairman from 1942 to 1944.
    More Details Hide Details He was an honorary vice chairman in the Democratic Socialists of America. Farmer was born in Marshall, Texas, to James L. Farmer, Sr. and Pearl Houston. His father was a professor at Wiley College, a historically black college, and a Methodist minister with a Ph.D. in theology at Boston University. His mother, a homemaker, was a graduate of Florida's Bethune Cookman Institute and a former teacher. When Farmer was a young boy, about three or four, he had wanted a Coca-Cola when out on the town with his mom. His mother had adamantly told him no, that he had to wait until they got home. Farmer, not understanding, wanted to get one right then. He watched another young boy go inside and buy a Coke. Sadly, his mother had to inform him that the reason the other boy could buy the Coke was because the other boy was white, and Farmer was colored. This defining, unjust moment was the first, but not the last, experience that Farmer had with segregation.
    In 1942, Farmer co-founded the Committee of Racial Equality, which later became the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), an organization that sought to bring an end to racial segregation in the United States through nonviolence.
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  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1920
    Age 0
    Born on January 12, 1920.
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