James Farmer Jr.: Core Events

Dr. James Farmer

            1920    Born Jan. 12 in Marshall, Texas

            1934    Enrolled in Wiley College, where he excelled on the debate team

            1938    Graduated with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry

            1941    Graduated from Howard University School of Divinity with a Bachelor of Divinity

            1942    At age 22, co-founded the Congress of Racial Equality, also known as CORE

            1942    With CORE, organized the nation’s first civil rights sit-in in Chicago, followed by many others in the 1940s and ’50s

            1960s  Established as one of the Big Four of the civil rights movement along with Martin
Luther King Jr., Whitney Young, and Roy Wilkins

            1961    Organized and led the Freedom Rides to test federal law desegregating interstate bus travel

            1963    Watched the March on Washington on a small TV from his jail cell in Plaquemine, Louisiana; though Farmer was a march organizer scheduled to speak in D.C., he and 200 others were arrested while peacefully protesting police brutality in Louisiana

            1964    Freedom Summer: Farmer traveled to Mississippi after three civil rights workers – two of whom were CORE members – were murdered by a lynch mob; outrage about the violence contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965

            1969-1970       Served as assistant secretary for administration in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; strengthened Head Start and a program to train and educate low-level employees in the department

            1975-1981       Served as associate director of the Coalition of American Public Employees

            1977    Wife Lula A. Peterson Farmer dies

            Early 1980s     Moved to Spotsylvania County, Virginia, with the goal of finishing his autobiography

            1985    Published Lay Bare the Heart: An Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement

            1985-1998       Taught at Mary Washington, retiring as distinguished professor of history

            1997    Received Mary Washington College honorary doctorate of humane letters

            1998    Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for extraordinary contributions to civil rights and social justice by President Bill Clinton; the James Farmer Multicultural Center renamed in his honor

            July 9, 1999     Died in Fredericksburg, Virginia, survived by two daughters and a granddaughter


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