Meet the 1963 March on Washington Organizers

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A.Philip Randolph Bayard Rustin Whitney Young Martin Luther King, Jr. Roy Wilkins James Farmer John Lewis Walter Reuther Eugene Carson Blake Mathew Ahmann Joachim Prinz

James Farmer
National Director, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)

James Farmer. (Photo by Joseph Scherschel//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

In 1942, James Farmer founded the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, after he and a white friend were refused service at a coffee shop in Chicago; the two men subsequently staged a successful sit-in demonstration at the restaurant. Shortly after, they formed an organization (originally called the Committee on Racial Equality) to protest nonviolently against segregation in public places. Within a year the group had a national membership, and within a few years claimed more than 60,000 members in 70 chapters. The Freedom Rides were one of CORE’s most notable actions, and were credited with pressuring the Interstate Commerce Commission to ban segregation in public transportation facilities.

At the time of the March, Farmer was behind bars in Louisiana for “disturbing the peace” — his crime trying to organize protests against police brutality. His imprisonment prevented him from attending the March, where he had planned to speak. He sent an aide, Floyd McKissick, to read his words to the crowd. The fight for racial equality would not end, Farmer wrote, “until the dogs stop biting us in the South and the rats stop biting us in the North.”

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