October 17, 2021

Tears, Applause and Song Greet Freedom Rides Marker

The old bus terminal – with its segregated restrooms and waiting areas – is no longer there. In its place, a permanent historical marker to commemorate the first stop on the 1961 Freedom Rides was unveiled yesterday afternoon, the result of efforts by University of Mary Washington staff, faculty and students, in partnership with the […]

Williams, Devlin, Henry Work to Bring Freedom Rides Historic Marker to Fredericksburg

Chris Williams, Erin Devlin and Christine Henry with Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw, Delegate Joshua Cole and Vice Mayor Chuck Frye. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Chris Williams, Erin Devlin and Christine Henry with Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw, Delegate Joshua Cole and Vice Mayor Chuck Frye. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams, Associate Professor of History Erin Devlin and Assistant Professor of Historic Preservation Christine Henry have worked with City of Fredericksburg officials to erect a historic marker at the site of the old bus station on Princess Anne and Wolfe streets, where the Freedom Riders first stopped 60 years ago in their quest to desegregate interstate travel.

This story has been featured by several local, regional and national media outlets.

Fredericksburg set to place marker honoring Freedom Riders’ first stop (The Free Lance-Star)

Freedom Riders marker in Fredericksburg, Va., tells the ‘untold story’ (The Washington Post)

Historical marker to be erected in Fredericksburg on 60th anniversary of Freedom Rides (WJLA)

UMW, Fredericksburg place temporary marker honoring Freedom Riders (The Free Lance-Star, The Culpeper Star-Exponent)

Freedom Riders marker in Fredericksburg, Virginia, tells the ‘untold story’ (The Philadelphia Tribune)

Fredericksburg Remembers the Freedom Rides’ First Stop (WVTF)

Marker Furthers UMW Mission on Freedom Rides’ 60th Anniversary

Today, on the 60th anniversary of the start of the Freedom Rides, a temporary historic marker was unveiled at the site of the former Fredericksburg bus station, where the Freedom Riders first stopped in 1961. The marker is the result of efforts by UMW staff, faculty and students, in partnership with the City of Fredericksburg. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Today, on the 60th anniversary of the start of the Freedom Rides, a temporary historic marker was unveiled at the site of the former Fredericksburg bus station, where the Freedom Riders first stopped in 1961. The marker is the result of efforts by UMW staff, faculty and students, in partnership with the City of Fredericksburg. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Sixty years ago today, 13 men and women – seven Black and six white – departed Washington, D.C., on Greyhound and Trailways buses. Led by civil rights icon James L. Farmer Jr., these Freedom Riders embarked on a quest to desegregate interstate travel.

Their first stop? Fredericksburg, Virginia. The riders visited the bus station terminal and lunch counter, once located at the corner of Princess Anne and Wolfe streets, where the fire station stands today.

The bus depot was torn down years ago, but this afternoon, a historical marker was erected in its place, thanks to the tireless work of University of Mary Washington staff, faculty and students, in partnership with the City of Fredericksburg. Their efforts are part of a greater campaign to share the history of the region’s Black residents, as well as UMW’s commitment to keep alive the legacy of the Freedom Riders and Dr. Farmer. Read more.

Marker Furthers UMW Mission on Freedom Rides’ 60th Anniversary

Sixty years ago today, 13 men and women – seven Black and six white – departed Washington, D.C., on Greyhound and Trailways buses. Led by civil rights icon James L. Farmer Jr., these Freedom Riders embarked on a quest to desegregate interstate travel. Their first stop? Fredericksburg, Virginia. The riders visited the bus station terminal […]

Fredericksburg set to place marker honoring Freedom Riders’ first stop (The Free Lance-Star)

Eagles Soar During Virtual Awards Ceremony

University of Mary Washington senior Jessica Lynch received the Grace Mann Launch Award during the Eagle Awards ceremony, held virtually last night. Student leaders and outstanding campus organizations were honored at this annual event, presented by the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC), Student Activities and Engagement, and Center for Community Engagement. Juniors Amber Brown and […]

Williams Featured on WJLA Story on Dr. Farmer’s Legacy

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams was featured in a WJLA story about how he and the staff and students involved with the JFMC carry on the legacy of Dr. James L. Farmer Jr. Watch here.

Chris Williams: Living Farmer’s Legacy

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

At the University of Mary Washington, the late James L. Farmer Jr. is known as the civil rights icon who organized the 1961 Freedom Rides and as a Mary Washington history professor who regaled his students with personal stories in his big, booming baritone.

But to Chris Williams, who has served as assistant director of UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center since 2017, Farmer was a friend and neighbor with a “great sense of humor.” Growing up in Spotsylvania, Williams became close to the man whose quest for justice and equality would later inspire his own life’s work.

This week, Williams shared his story on the new PBS series “American Portrait.” UMW alum Shawn Mitchell ‘20, who interned at PBS last fall, suggested that Williams respond to the prompt, “What is the tradition you carry on?” Williams’ video was selected from 11,000 submissions for the episode, titled “I Rise,” which aired Tuesday night.

“Our job here is to continue the legacy of Dr. Farmer’s work but also teach incoming students and colleagues about who this great man was and what he sacrificed and what he contributed to the betterment of American society,” Williams told The Free Lance-Star. The Washington Post and Associated Press also helped spread the word about Williams’ appearance, and he will be featured on WJLA during Black History Month.

Williams cites JFMC’s social justice, diversity and anti-racism advocacy work, showcased through programming such as cultural events, teach-ins, a human rights film series and an annual justice summit. To kick off Farmer Legacy 2020 – the 100th anniversary celebration of Farmer’s birth – UMW students and local residents traced the same route in Oct. 2019 that the Freedom Riders took to desegregate interstate travel.

They returned from that fall break trip with a “renewed sense of vigor and purpose,” said Williams, who is working with UMW faculty members and Fredericksburg officials to have a historical marker erected at the former bus station on Princess Anne and Wolfe streets, the first stop on the Freedom Riders’ journey. Their goal is to have the marker in place this year, the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides.

“My relationship with Dr. Farmer is why I wanted to do these projects,” Williams said. “He fulfilled his obligation and duty of making this society better than when he entered it. So should we.”

Q: What are some of the ways JFMC has continued to engage students during COVID?
A: We’ve created great online programming, which can be found at www.umw.edu/multicultural. This spring, we’ll have events for MLK, Black and Women’s History months, as well as the Islamic Cultural Celebration and Passover Seder.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Seeing our incredible students persevere, despite daily challenges on and off campus.

JFMC Assistant Director Chris Williams with some of his favorite record albums. A prolific music writer, Williams will teach a music history course at UMW this fall. Photo Credit: Sabrina Vaz-Holder/The Free Lance-Star.

JFMC Assistant Director Chris Williams with some of his favorite record albums. A prolific music writer, Williams will teach a music history course at UMW this fall. Photo Credit: Sabrina Vaz-Holder/The Free Lance-Star.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Trying to deal with the pandemic on both a professional and personal level.

Q: You’re a music journalist who has been published in Ebony, Rolling Stone and The New York Times, among others, and you were recently featured on Netflix’s “Hip-Hop Evolution.” What’s next?
A: This fall I’m teaching a UMW music department course that covers the intersection of culture, race, politics and music history. Our students will also get to hear some transformative music by legendary artists.

Q: Who are your favorite performing artists?
A: Stevie Wonder; Marvin Gaye; A Tribe Called Quest; Earth, Wind & Fire; and The Isley Brothers.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Tell the truth.

Williams Featured in Free Lance-Star, Washington Post

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams was interviewed in The Free Lance-Star about his appearance on PBS’s “American Portrait” on Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 9 p.m.; the article was also reprinted in The Washington Post. Williams was chosen from 11,000 people who submitted a response to the episode’s prompt, “What is the tradition you carry on?” Williams discussed how he continues Dr. Farmer’s legacy through his work with the James Farmer Multicultural Center.

 

Christopher Williams works daily to carry on the legacy of civil rights leader James Farmer.

The legacy is in his job description—assistant director of the University of Mary Washington’s James Farmer Multicultural Center. It informs the work he does at the center along with Director Marion Sanford—coordinating social justice teach-ins, creating a social justice fall break trip, curating a human rights film series and talking daily with students and community members about Black history and anti-racism.

The legacy of James Farmer—who founded the Committee on Racial Equality, led the first Freedom Rides and taught at UMW from 1984 to 1998—is also personal for Williams. He is a product of the James Farmer Scholars Program, which was created in 1987 to assist selected public school students in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Caroline and Westmoreland counties with preparing for and enrolling in higher education. Read more.

UMW’s Christopher Williams, carrying on the legacy of James Farmer (fredericksburg.com)