The James Farmer Multicultural Center is named after the legendary Civil Rights activist, Dr. James Farmer, Jr. The Center is celebrating its thirtieth year of existence this year.
Dr. Farmer earned national prominence as one of the foremost leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. His major accomplishments and contributions to the movement and the advancement of our society established him as one of the “Big Four” of the Civil Rights Movement, along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitney Young, and Roy Wilkins. He founded the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), organized the “Freedom Rides” to desegregate interstate travel, and served as the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. For the past 30 years, we have strived to build upon his legacy by promoting the values of diversity, equity, access, and inclusion through our numerous programmatic endeavors and social justice initiatives. For example, we have created the Cultural Awareness Series, Human Rights Film Series, and our multicultural student clubs have grown from three to twenty-two. In addition, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Multicultural Fair. Each year, the Multicultural Fair draws an attendance of 4,000 to 6,000 people to the UMW campus. The annual event has become a staple for the University.
January 12, 2020 would have been Dr. Farmer’s 100th birthday. As a result, the University has collaborated with our Center to plan a series of events to commemorate this special occasion. The first event will be a social justice fall break trip co-sponsored with the office of the Vice-President for Equity and Access to travel the same route of the 1961 Freedom Riders from Fredericksburg (which was the first stop after they left Washington D.C.) to Birmingham, AL. Dr. Farmer coordinated this trip in 1961 to protest the non-enforcement of the desegregated interstate bus travel. This journey will include stops at several of the same places the Freedom Riders stopped, whether it was to speak with other civil rights activists or student leaders at Bennett College in NC, meet and strategize for next steps in the trip in GA, or just to have a safe place to sleep for the night. Along the way, UMW students will be visiting the International Civil Rights Center in Greensboro, NC and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, AL. Other visits will include The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change and the Atlanta University Center in Atlanta, GA.
Some of the other events that will encompass Dr. Farmer’s social justice advocacy work will feature a series of social justice teach-ins on current social justice issues, a Farmer Friday Movie Series, and the Social Justice and Leadership Summit next March. To learn more about the James Farmer Multicultural Center, please visit students.umw.edu/multicultural.
Christopher Williams, Assistant Director, James Farmer Multicultural Center