Digital Repository

James L. Farmer Jr.

Civil rights leader James Farmer was born in Marshall, Texas, in 1920. Though he originally planned to become a Methodist minister, the influence of legendary teacher Melvin Tolson—and segregation within the church—led Farmer to activism. In 1942, Farmer organized the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in Chicago. A decade before the civil rights movement made headlines, CORE followed Gandhian principles of nonviolent direct action to fight racial discrimination, pioneering the tactics that eventually dismantled segregation in the South.

Audio: Houston Public Media

Image: James Farmer, 1963. Photo by Walter Albertin. New York World-Telegram and Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.