James Farmer was born in 1920 in Marshall, Texas, into a family of educators. As a boy, he “swelled with rebellion” when he personally witnessed the injustices of Jim Crow, igniting his lifelong civil rights activism. In 1942, 22-year-old Farmer co-founded the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which organized several protests of segregated facilities in the 1940s and 1950s. CORE, under his leadership, led the 1961 Freedom Rides into several southern states, including Virginia, to test Supreme Court rulings that outlawed segregation in interstate transportation and bus terminals. In the 1980s, Farmer moved to Spotsylvania County and served as a history professor at Mary Washington College from 1985 until 1998, one year before he died in 1999.
For more detail about Dr. Farmer’s outstanding life and legacy visit the James Farmer Multicultural Center’s page, About James Farmer.
View a timeline highlighting the events of Dr. Farmer’s life.