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Mon, 01.12.1920

James Farmer Jr., Educator, and Activist born

James Farmer Jr.

James Farmer, Black educator, administrator, activist was born on this date in 1920.

He was raised in an environment that valued education and religious faith. James Farmer was an outstanding student.  After skipping several grades in elementary school, he entered Wiley College in Marshall, TX, at the age of 14, graduated in 1938, and then graduated from Howard University's School of Religion in 1941.

James Farmer co-founded C.O.R.E. in 1942, which was at first called the Committee on Racial Equality. Some of CORE's first actions included restaurant sit-ins, which were so successful that they greatly influenced student activists nearly 20 years later.

In addition to sit-ins, stand-ins, and boycotts, CORE pioneered the technique called Freedom Rides. Always risking violent retaliation and often risking jail for their efforts, CORE members were specially trained to maintain a peaceful, nonviolent demeanor.  Eventually, their work led to the desegregation of more than 100 southern bus terminals. In 1968, Farmer ran for U.S. Congress on the Liberal Party ticket but lost to Shirley Chisholm.

In the mid-1980's, Farmer worked hard on his memoir, "Lay Bare the Heart," which was published in 1985. Claude Sitton, reviewing the book approvingly for The New York Times, said that Farmer, "more than any other civil rights leader, fought against (racism) and attempted to hold the movement true to its purpose."

In 1998, President Clinton awarded him the Congressional Medal of Freedom; James Farmer died a year later on July 9, 1999.

James Farmer, Civil Rights Giant in the 50's and 60's
by RICHARD SEVERO, the New York Times,
July 10, 1999

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