Download Interview with Dr. Allyson Poska
The interview with Dr. Allyson Poska was conducted by Courtney Chapman and Jacqueline Marshall on November 11, 2009. The subject of the interview was her recollection of James Farmer as a professor at Mary Washington in the years that his and her tenure overlapped. From what Dr. Poska recalled Farmer was, by 1992 when she began teaching at the school, Farmer was not very present at Mary Washington because of his declining health and older age. She remembers him as an amazing story teller who was able to draw people in with his “booming voice”. She also remembers there being controversy between the administration and the community-the administration did not know what to do with him since he was a celebrity in his own right while the community wanted significantly more to do about him because of his involvement in the civil rights movement. This caused tension between the idea of Farmer and Farmer himself. Overall she said that, because of when she came to Mary Washington and how Farmer’s path was heading toward ending his teaching career, she had little quality contact with Farmer but that the main thing she remembered was the discrepancy between what the community wanted and what the administration wanted.
Discursive Table of Contents
We introduce Dr. Allyson Poska who has been working at the University of Mary Washington for eighteen years. She admits that she did not have much interaction while James Farmer was a faculty member at UMW. This was because he only taught one class which was focused around the Civil Rights Movement. The class was popular because James Farmer had first hand experience, was a great storyteller, and because there were only two tests. She reflects on James Farmers interaction with students and faculty members.
Dr. Poska discusses how Farmers’ health affected his teaching at Mary Washington. She believes that he only wanted to tell his story to his students. He wanted to bring energy to the students about issues concerning race and civil rights. Farmer did not spend a lot of time with students outside of the classroom due to his age and illness. She reflects that while he taught, at least a couple hundred students would know who Farmer was. However, today, she believes most students are not aware of Farmer.
Discusses Farmer’s Congressional Medal of Freedom and how it was not celebrated at Mary Washington due to his tense relationship with administration. Administration was unsure of how to make him a part of campus. Admits that the school was not interested in dealing with racial issues at that time. He was willing to discuss racial issues with students privately but did not encourage students to take action.
Discusses personal stories and interactions with James Farmer. Poska talks about Farmer’s retirement and how it was expected due to his declining health.
Dr. Poska discusses his legacy and how she, personally, does not believe he was remembered after his death. Community members had a close tie to Farmer and wished to memorialize him in a grander fashion than the school’s response. The school has items, which honor Farmer, but they are not cohesive nor tie him to the school.
Dr. Poska discusses how administration was unsure of how to deal with James Farmer at the University.