from 1/5/08 from pseudo-intellectualism
James Leonard Farmer Jr. (January 19, 1920 – July 9, 1999), a Black civil rights activist who was one of the "big four" leaders of the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Born in Marshall, Texas in 1920, Farmer was an excellent student who skipped several grades in elementary school. After he completed high school at the age of fourteen he attended Wiley College. He considered careers in both medicine and the ministry during his undergraduate days. However, after he received his bachelor of science degree in chemistry in 1938 he also realized he could not stand the sight of blood, so he enrolled in Howard University's School of Religion, receiving the Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1941. When World War II began the pacifist Farmer refused to serve, especially in a segregated army. He opposed war in general, and more specifically objected to serving in the segregated armed forces. Farmer was deferred from the draft because he held a divinity degree. After his time at Howard University he began traveling the Midwest speaking about racial equality and pacifism. Farmer decided to fight the Southern Methodist Church's policy of segregation rather than become an ordained minister.
In 1942, Farmer along with a group of students co-founded the Congress of Racial Equality, an organization that sought to bring an end to racial segregation in America through active nonviolence. The organization was also known as CORE. Farmer was the first leader of the Congress of Racial Equality but after several years he became inactive.
During the 1950s, Farmer served as national secretary of the Student League for Industrial Democracy (SLID), the youth branch of the socialist League for Industrial Democracy. SLID later became Students for a Democratic Society.
In 1960 Farmer became reelected as the director, which was around the same time the civil rights movement was gaining power. The organization was first called the Committee of Racial Equality and then became the Congress of Racial Equality. Farmer then served as the national chairman for the Congress of Racial Equality from 1942-1944 and then was reelected for the position in 1950. From 1961-1966 he was elected the national director. Farmer was so involved in his work that he even remained interested in the organization during the times he was not leader.
In 1961 Farmer, who was working for the NAACP at the time, was called back to lead the Freedom Rides for the Congress of Racial Equality and who had taken a hiatus from leading the group, returned as its national director. He also helped organize the Freedom Rides. The Freedom Rides led to the desegregation of bus terminals and interstate buses. He immediately planned a repeat of CORE's 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, a trip of eight white and eight black men challenging segregation in transportation in the upper South. This time, however, the group would journey to the Deep South, and Farmer coined a new name for the trip: the Freedom Ride. On May 4, participants journeyed to the deep South, this time including women as well as men, and tested segregated bus terminals as well as seating on the vehicles. The riders were met with severe violence and garnered national attention, sparking a summer of similar rides by other Civil Rights leaders and thousands of ordinary citizens. Although the Freedom Rides were attacked by whites, the Freedom Rides became recognized and the Congress of Racial Equality received nationwide attention. Also, Farmer became a well-known civil rights leader. The Freedom Rides led to the capturing of the imagination of the nation through photographs, newspaper accounts, and motion pictures. After the Freedom Rides, concerned whites and blacks decided it was time for racial segregation and racial discrimination to come to an end.
By the mid 1960s Farmer was growing disenchanted with emerging militancy and black nationalist sentiments in CORE and resigned in 1966. He took a teaching position at Lincoln University and continued to lecture. In 1968 Farmer ran for U.S. Congress as a Republican, but lost to Shirley Chisholm. However his defeat was not total; the recently elected President, Richard Nixon, offered him the position of Assistant Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.
James Farmer co-founded Fund for an Open Society (www.opensoc.org) in 1975, which has as its vision a nation in which people live in communities which are stably integrated; where political and civic power is shared by people of different races and ethnicities. He led this organization until 1999.
Farmer retired from politics in 1971, but remained active lecturing and serving on various boards and committees. He published his autobiography, Lay Bare the Heart, in 1985. Farmer lived to see CORE move closer to its centrist roots in the 1980s and 1990s. President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998. Farmer taught a class on the civil rights movement at Mary Washington College (now The University of Mary Washington) in Fredericksburg, Virginia until his death in 1999.