September 25, 2023

Introducing Farmer Legacy 2020

Dear UMW Community:

For the University of Mary Washington, 2020 will be a particularly significant year. As our civic engagement ramps up for the national election in November 2020, we will also celebrate several institutional milestones, including the thirtieth anniversary of the James Farmer Multicultural Center and the tenth anniversary of UMW’s Women’s and Gender Studies program.

Moreover, January 12, 2020, will mark the centennial birthday of civil rights pioneer and UMW professor Dr. James Farmer. In commemoration, UMW will launch a year of reflection and drive for action called Farmer Legacy 2020: A Centennial Celebration and Commitment to Action. With Farmer Legacy 2020, the University will focus on Dr. Farmer’s imprint on U.S. history and on UMW specifically. Through several signature events, we will celebrate Dr. Farmer’s influence and other social justice milestones. And, in recognition of Dr. Farmer’s activism and determination to, in his own words, “do something about” injustice, Farmer Legacy 2020 will encourage our community to take action in support of inclusive excellence. We will ask: What would Farmer fight for today?

James Farmer was born in 1920 in Marshall, Texas, into a family of educators. As a boy, his heart “swelled with rebellion” when he personally witnessed the injustices of Jim Crow, motivating 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. After moving to Spotsylvania County in the early 1980s, Farmer served as Distinguished Professor of History at Mary Washington College from 1985 until his retirement in January 1999. He passed away on July 9, 1999.

Tomorrow, as a prelude to Farmer Legacy 2020, a group of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members will embark on the Freedom Rides Tour, organized and led by the James Farmer Multicultural Center and the Office of Equity and Access. The two buses will follow the route of the 1961 Freedom Rides and will visit sites along the way such as the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, the Anniston bus bombing, and the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

This fall and throughout 2020, join us in celebrating a Mary Washington icon and leaving your own mark on UMW’s vision to be a force for positive social change aimed at producing citizens ready, willing, and able to address the greatest challenges facing our democracy and world. Plan to visit the Farmer Legacy 2020 website throughout this year of commemoration to share and learn about our community in action.

Next week, the Campus Environment Committee, which has been engaged in study for two years, will release its draft report and recommendations to ensure that our campus’s physical environment reflects our values and commitment to diversity and inclusion. I encourage all faculty, staff and students to become involved. Mark your calendars to attend a community open forum and provide input there (or electronically) on the committee’s recommendations and next steps.

Campus Environment open forums:

Monday, October, 28, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.,  HCC Digital Auditorium

Wednesday, October  30,  3:30 – 5:30 p.m., HCC Digital Auditorium

Thank you for your engagement. Your voice matters.


Troy D. Paino, J.D., Ph.D.