January 25, 2020

UMW Launches Centennial Celebration, ‘Farmer Legacy 2020’

For the University of Mary Washington, 2020 will be a particularly significant year. As civic engagement ramps up for the national election next November, UMW will celebrate several institutional milestones, including the 30th anniversary of the James Farmer Multicultural Center and the tenth anniversary of UMW’s Women’s and Gender Studies program.

UMW will honor the legacy of Dr. James Farmer, who taught at Mary Washington, during a yearlong celebration.

UMW will honor the legacy of Dr. James Farmer, who taught at Mary Washington, during a yearlong celebration.

And, in recognition of Dr. Farmer’s activism and determination to, in his own words, “do something about” injustice, Farmer Legacy 2020 will encourage the campus and surrounding community to take action in support of inclusive excellence. We will ask: What would Farmer fight for today? 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 a 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 indelible imprint on U.S. history – and on UMW specifically. Through several signature events, Dr. Farmer’s influence and other social justice milestones will be celebrated.

As a boy in Marshall, Texas, James Farmer felt his heart “swell with rebellion” when he witnessed the injustices of Jim Crow. 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, shortly before his death later that year.

Earlier this week, a group of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members returned from a four-day replication of the original Freedom Rides Tour. This tour, organized and led by the University’s James Farmer Multicultural Center and Office of Equity and Access, included two buses and several faculty guides. The buses followed the route of the 1961 Freedom Rides and visited sites along the way, such as the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, the Anniston bus bombing, and the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

The Freedom Rides trip and other events this fall form a prelude to UMW’s yearlong celebration in 2020 of a Mary Washington icon and the values he exemplified. Community members are encouraged to join students in becoming a force for positive social change. Plan to visit the Farmer Legacy 2020 website throughout this year of commemoration to learn more about events and activities.