July 13, 2020

Marion Sanford: Following in Farmer’s Footsteps

Since 2010, Marion Sanford has been the director of the James Farmer Multicultural Center. Photo by Matthew Binamira Sanders.

Since 2010, Marion Sanford has been the director of the James Farmer Multicultural Center. Photo by Matthew Binamira Sanders.

The most treasured object in Marion Sanford’s office is Raymond Arsenault’s book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. It’s a riveting account of the quest to desegregate interstate transportation led by Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., the late civil rights pioneer and Mary Washington professor who died in 1999.

Sanford never met the namesake of the James Farmer Multicultural Center, where she’s been director since 2010. But in this book, she has collected autographs from seven of the Freedom Riders – five of whom were among the original 13 men and women who left Washington, D.C. and put their lives on the line to fight injustice.

“When I think of their bravery and sacrifice, it inspires me to keep working for freedom, justice and equality,” said Sanford, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University in Mississippi and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Iowa State University.

On Monday, Jan. 13, UMW kicks off Farmer Legacy 2020, a yearlong celebration honoring the late civil rights pioneer and Mary Washington professor, who died in 1999 and whose 100th birthday would have been Jan. 12, 2020.

On Monday, Jan. 13, UMW kicks off Farmer Legacy 2020, a yearlong celebration honoring the late civil rights pioneer and Mary Washington professor, who died in 1999 and whose 100th birthday would have been Jan. 12, 2020.

A new signature was added when Sanford was among the UMW delegation that recently met with Congressman John Lewis. A civil rights icon in his own right, Lewis will serve as honorary chair for Farmer Legacy 2020, a yearlong celebration launching on Jan. 13, the day after what would have been Farmer’s 100th birthday.

Lewis has the same “energy, passion and determination” as when he boarded the bus as a college student nearly 60 years ago, Sanford said. She’ll never forget, she said, watching him interact with Student Government Association president Jason Ford, who was among the UMW group that traced the journey of the Freedom Rides last fall.

“It was the passing of a torch,” said Sanford. “Lewis is the past and present of the civil rights movement – and he looked at Jason like he was the future.”

 

 

 

Rep. John Lewis speaks with UMW Student Government Association president Jason Ford about Lewis' participation in the Freedom Rides and the march from Selma to Montgomery. Twice, through UMW’s Fall Break Social Justice Trips in 2018 and 2019, Ford has taken in sites visited by Farmer and Lewis during the height of the civil rights movement. Photo provided by the James Farmer Multicultural Center.

Rep. John Lewis speaks with UMW Student Government Association president Jason Ford about Lewis’ participation in the Freedom Rides and the march from Selma to Montgomery. Twice, through UMW’s Fall Break Social Justice Trips in 2018 and 2019, Ford has taken in sites visited by Farmer and Lewis during the height of the civil rights movement. Photo provided by the James Farmer Multicultural Center.

Q: What are some highlights of Farmer Legacy 2020?
A: Besides the birthday celebration, UMW students are planning a special tribute on Jan. 16 to honor Dr. Farmer. This spring is the 30th anniversary of the Multicultural Fair, and in March, we’ll have our Social Justice and Leadership Summit. In the fall, there will be a talk by Chief of Staff and History Professor Jeff McClurken and Associate Provost Tim O’Donnell, who will share their memories of Dr. Farmer.

Q: What is a typical day for you?
A: I usually start by helping students resolve an issue or plan an upcoming program or activity. There are committee meetings with faculty and staff, and my day often ends by attending a Cultural Awareness Series event or one of our social justice initiatives.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
A: I love getting to know our students and seeing them become active members of the campus community. But it’s difficult to accomplish our mission and continue to provide high-quality programs and services with limited resources.

Q: How do you spend your free time?
A: I enjoy reading or playing tennis.

Q: What are your favorite social justice books?
A: Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, by Maurianne Adams, et.al.; Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education, by Ozlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo; and White Fragility, also by DiAngelo.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Keep the faith!

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. 

Freedom Rides Tour Brings Memories, Emotions

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 […]

UMW Invites Community on Freedom Rides Bus Tour, Oct. 12-15

UMW is inviting community members to caravan along with students on its “Social Justice Trip: Freedom Rides Tour,” which will take place Oct. 12 through 15.

UMW is inviting community members to caravan along with students on its “Social Justice Trip: Freedom Rides Tour,” which will take place Oct. 12 through 15.

Will you get on the bus?

The University of Mary Washington is inviting members of the Fredericksburg community to join students on a trip of a lifetime. The Freedom Rides Tour – set to take place Saturday, Oct. 12, through Tuesday, Oct. 15 – traces the route of the history-changing 1960s bus rides across the American South. The social justice experience celebrates Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., the late civil rights icon and Mary Washington history professor, and his signature movement to enforce the desegregation of interstate travel.

Coordinated by UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) and the office of the Vice-President for Equity and Access, the tour is being coordinated in conjunction with UMW’s yearlong 2020 celebration of the 100th anniversary of Dr. Farmer’s birth. Read more. 

Honor James Farmer and Follow the Freedom Rides with UMW

UMW faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and neighbors are invited to join our students as they celebrate the legacy of Dr. James L. Farmer, Jr., on the Freedom Rides Tour, a social justice trip commemorating Farmer’s signature movement to enforce the desegregation of interstate travel.

The alumni/community bus will caravan with the student bus and follow the exact route of the Freedom Riders. Stops will include some of the same places the Freedom Riders stopped–whether to speak with other activists at Bennett College in North Carolina, to strategize for next steps in Georgia, or just to have a safe place to sleep for the night. Along the way, we will visit the International Civil Rights Museum in North Carolina, the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum in Alabama, and the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change and the Atlanta University Center, both in Georgia.

Learn more about the sites, history, and experiences of the Freedom Rides and other significant landmarks and trailblazers of the Civil Rights movement. See the spot where the Freedom Riders were attacked by the KKK. Visit Martin Luther King, Jr’s birth home. It promises to be a meaningful and impactful journey. We will be joined on the trip by Dr. Erin Devlin, assistant professor of history and American studies, and Dr. Marion Sanford, director of multicultural affairs at the James Farmer Multicultural Center, who will add commentary and context to the trip.

We hope you’ll get on the bus!

Saturday, Oct. 12-Tuesday, Oct. 15
Departing from and returning to UMW’s Fredericksburg Campus

This event is being coordinated by UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center and the office of the Vice-President for Equity and Access in conjunction with UMW’s 2020 celebration of the 100th anniversary of Dr. Farmer’s birth.

Dr. Farmer was a dedicated civil rights activist, educator and UMW professor, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He co-founded one of the most important civil rights organizations of the 20th century, CORE (Congress of Racial Equality). Dr. Farmer personified UMW’s founding and continuing commitment to be a force for positive change, educating citizens who are ready and eager to address our society’s greatest challenges.

SEE ITINERARY, COSTS, AND REGISTRATION

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