James L. Farmer Jr., founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and lifelong civil rights activist, was Commonwealth Professor of History at Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) from 1985 to 1999. Farmer began teaching at Mary Washington as he was completing his autobiography, Lay Bare the Heart. In University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908-2008, William B. Crawley Jr., writes, “Farmer’s impact upon Mary Washington College was extraordinary. From the moment of his arrival on campus, he regularly taught more students per class than any member of the faculty. They sat enthralled as the matchless storyteller related from personal experience the drama of the civil rights movement, leaving his audience alternately appalled by his descriptions of the hatred and violence he encountered and amazed by the good humor he still somehow managed to convey.”

The oral history interviews on this website further document Farmer’s legacy at the University of Mary Washington (UMW). All of the interviews were conducted by students in Professor Jess Rigelhaupt’s senior seminar, Oral History and James Farmer. They interviewed former students, faculty, and staff about Farmer’s contributions to UMW, wrote essays analyzing the interviews, and built this website.