October 27, 2020

UMW Launches Centennial Celebration of James Farmer on Jan. 13

Happy birthday, Dr. James Farmer!

This year, UMW will celebrate the centennial birthday of the late civil rights pioneer and Mary Washington history professor Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., who died in 1999.

This year, UMW will celebrate the centennial birthday of the late civil rights pioneer and Mary Washington history professor Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., who died in 1999.

Two decades after his death and on the day after he would have turned 100, the late Mary Washington professor and U.S. civil rights pioneer Dr. James L. Farmer Jr. is being lauded by the community in which he spent his final years.

Monday, January 13, 2020, not only will serve as a celebration of Farmer’s birthday, it will be the official kick-off for UMW’s Farmer Legacy 2020: A Centennial Celebration and Commitment to Actiona year of signature events and other activities related to Farmer and various social justice milestones.

Honorary chair of Farmer Legacy 2020, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), had intended to headline Monday’s celebration of his longtime friend and fellow fighter. Both men were among the original 13 participants in the 1961 Freedom Rides, organized by Farmer’s Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Unfortunately, a recent cancer diagnosis prevents Congressman Lewis from attending.

The UMW community is deeply grateful to Rep. Lewis for his commitment to Farmer’s legacy; Lewis gave an extraordinary commencement address at Mary Washington in 2011 when the University celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides. Last fall, Lewis met with a UMW contingent, including President Troy Paino, on Capitol Hill to reminisce about Dr. Farmer and offer support to the yearlong centennial celebration.

Student Government Association President Jason Ford was among a UMW contingent on a recent visit to Washington, D.C., to speak with Rep. John Lewis about the Farmer Legacy 2020 celebration.

Student Government Association President Jason Ford was among a UMW contingent on a recent visit to Washington, D.C., to speak with Rep. John Lewis about the Farmer Legacy 2020 celebration.

Student Government Association President Jason Ford, a senior from Culpeper, Virginia, was a member of the UMW group that met with Lewis. At Monday’s event, Ford will address that moving experience and share his affinity for Dr. Farmer, a man he never met, but whose booming voice and engaging lectures impacted generations of Mary Washington students.

Ford will be joined by junior Courtney Flowers and President Paino, all of whom will make brief remarks prior to a Farmer birthday celebration and cake-cutting Monday, January 13, at 2:30 p.m. in Chandler Ballroom of the University Center. The event is open to the public.

UMW’s yearlong commemoration will examine the historical context of Farmer’s life and the ways in which our society currently acts on principles important to him, including civic engagement, access and inclusion.Twice, through UMW’s Fall Break Social Justice Trips in 2018 and 2019, Ford has taken in sites visited by Farmer during the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Flowers, from Torrance, California, was so compelled by what she learned about Dr. Farmer during a high school project she decided to travel all the way across the country to attend Mary Washington, a school at which Farmer taught and one that features a James Farmer Multicultural Center.

Growing up in Texas and Mississippi, James Farmer felt his heart “swell with rebellion” when he personally witnessed the injustices of Jim Crow. At age 22, Farmer co-founded CORE, which organized several protests of segregated facilities in the 1940s and 1950s. Spearheaded by Farmer, CORE led the 1961 Freedom Rides into several Southern states 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.

“What would Dr. Farmer fight for today?” is the question the UMW community will be asking throughout 2020, the centennial year of his birth.

For the event on Monday, campus parking restrictions will be lifted. Accessibility issues should be directed to the UMW Office of Events and Conferencing at 540-654-1087.

For updates and other information, visit https://www.umw.edu/farmer/.

James Farmer Multicultural Center Turns 30

Junior Courtney Flowers was writing a high school paper when she stumbled upon a name she didn’t recognize. “It was James Farmer,” said the Los Angeles native, who spent that day on a UMW website, researching the late civil rights pioneer and Mary Washington history professor. “What ultimately drew me here was the James Farmer […]

James Farmer Multicultural Center Turns 30

In 2020, UMW will celebrate the centennial birthday of the late civil rights pioneer and Mary Washington history professor Dr. James L. Farmer Jr. – who died in 1999 – as well as the 30th anniversary of the James Farmer Multicultural Center. Photo by Lou Cordero.

In 2020, UMW will celebrate the centennial birthday of the late civil rights pioneer and Mary Washington history professor Dr. James L. Farmer Jr. – who died in 1999 – as well as the 30th anniversary of the James Farmer Multicultural Center. Photo by Lou Cordero.

Junior Courtney Flowers was writing a high school paper when she stumbled upon a name she didn’t recognize.

“It was James Farmer,” said the Los Angeles native, who spent that day on a UMW website, researching the late civil rights pioneer and Mary Washington history professor. “What ultimately drew me here was the James Farmer Multicultural Center.”

In 2020, the University will celebrate the centennial birthday of Dr. James L. Farmer Jr. – who died in 1999 – as well as the 30th anniversary of the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC). Created in response to an uptick in enrollment of students of color and a rash of racially biased incidents that ensued, the Center aimed to promote harmony between all groups. It fulfills Farmer’s legacy, educating the UMW community through engaging – and often life-changing – programs, from the spring Multicultural Fair to the fall Social Justice Trip. JFMC also supports 22 campus organizations and offers a welcoming haven for underrepresented students. Read more.

Freedom Rides Tour a ‘Life-Changing’ Experience

Last weekend, a group of 21 area residents joined 46 Mary Washington students, as well as UMW faculty and administrators, to trace the route of the 1961 Freedom Rides, the historic protest to desegregate interstate travel, organized by the late civil rights icon and Mary Washington history professor Dr. James L. Farmer Jr. and the organization he co-founded, Congress for Racial Equality. Photo by Lynda Allen.

Last weekend, a group of 21 area residents joined 46 Mary Washington students, as well as UMW faculty and administrators, to trace the route of the 1961 Freedom Rides, the historic protest to desegregate interstate travel, organized by the late civil rights icon and Mary Washington history professor Dr. James L. Farmer Jr. and the organization he co-founded, Congress for Racial Equality. Photo by Lynda Allen.

Stafford resident Frank White joined the Air Force in 1957, three days after finishing high school. Stationed in Texas, he traveled by Greyhound bus to visit his family in Virginia. For days and nights, he remained dressed in his uniform, sitting quietly in the back as the bus barreled through the deep South.

“Don’t make waves, don’t draw attention to yourself,” the young airman was warned by his African American superiors.

Mr. White remembered those travels as he sat at the front of the bus last weekend, one of 21 area residents who joined 46 UMW students, as well as faculty and administrators, to trace the route of the 1961 Freedom Rides during fall break. This social justice experience celebrates Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., the late civil rights pioneer and Mary Washington history professor who orchestrated the historic protest to desegregate interstate travel.

After the success of last year’s civil rights trip, James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) Director Marion Sanford and Assistant Director Chris Williams wondered what they could do to make this one even more meaningful. With the 100th anniversary of Dr. Farmer’s birth approaching and the University announcing a centennial celebration in his honor, they decided to dedicate this year’s experience to his signature movement and lifelong commitment to social justice. Read more.