- NAME: James Farmer
- OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist, Journalist
- BIRTH DATE: January 12, 1920
- DEATH DATE: July 09, 1999
- Did You Know?: James Farmer's life as a star college debater during his adolescence was depicted in the Denzel Washington film The Great Debaters.
- Did You Know?: James Farmer's father was the first African-American citizen to earn a doctorate in Texas.
- EDUCATION: Wiley College, Howard University
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Marshall, Texas
- PLACE OF DEATH: Fredericksburg, Virginia
- Full Name: James Leonard Farmer Jr.
- AKA: James Leonard Farmer
- AKA: James L. Farmer Jr.
- AKA: James L. Farmer
- AKA: James Farmer
- AKA: Jim Farmer
Best Known For
Civil rights leader James Farmer headed the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and organized the historic Freedom Rides of 1961.
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The Freedom Riders consisted of both women and men, black and white who traveled on bus routes through Southern states.
The first ride was launched in May of 1961, with the bus firebombed upon reaching Alabama after travel through several states. Other riders were mobilized, yet the brutality was horrifying, with one rider having been beaten so badly he was left paralyzed for life and protesters jailed en masse in Jackson,
Mississippi. Audiences around the world were able to see via television violent racism at work, and in September of 1961 the Interstate Commerce Commission—at the behest of Attorney General Robert Kennedy—declared segregation impermissible in Southern public travel facilities and modes of transport.
CORE, also at the helm of hiring-based protests in the North, continued its prominent work in the South, with Farmer being targeted for his leadership and jailed and three CORE-affiliated workers murdered in Mississippi in 1964.
Farmer eventually resigned from leading CORE in the mid-1960s. His book Freedom—When? was published in 1966 and, after a stint teaching at Lincoln University, he ran unsuccessfully for Congress on the Republican ticket against Democrat Shirley Chisolm in 1968. He later worked in the administration of President Richard Nixon, though he left in frustration.
Receiving several honors for his work over time, Farmer was able to tell his story to new generations, releasing his acclaimed autobiography Lay Bare the Heart in 1985. More than a decade later he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton. And in 2011, PBS' American Experience released a documentary that focused on CORE's work entitled Freedom Riders.
Farmer had been suffering greatly from diabetes during his later years. He died on July 9, 1999, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, at the age of 79.
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