James Farmer, Jr. (1920-1999) entered Wiley College in Marshall, Texas on a four-year scholarship at age 14 and was a member of the national championship debate team portrayed on film in The Great Debaters. He earned a divinity degree at Howard University under Howard Thurman in 1941 and would have gone on to be a Methodist minister but objected to the segregation of the church after the 1939 merger between the northern and southern branches.
Farmer used his experience with the international pacifist organization Fellowship of Reconciliation to found the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in 1942. Dedicated to eliminating racism through non-violent action, the interracial group integrated schools and public facilities in Chicago and led a forerunner of the later Freedom Ride with the Journey of Reconciliation in 1947.
As Executive Director of CORE, Farmer planned and led the Freedom Ride which left Washington DC on May 4, 1961 with integrated groups of passengers riding on Greyhound buses to New Orleans.A bus was firebombed in Anniston, Alabama, and participants were beaten and jailed along they way. Farmer himself spent 59 days in Mississippi's Parchman Prison.
CORE was also instrumental in voter registration drives the following years, working as a member of COFO (Congress of Federated Organizations) along with NAACP and SNCC. Farmer resigned in 1966 over the growing militancy of the organization and of the civil rights movement as a whole. He briefly served as Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare before going on to teach at Lincoln University, NYU, and the University of Mary Washington.
Read more about James Farmer at the Texas State Historical Association websitehttps://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffa19