4 Southwestern Historical Quarterly July
wrote of a growing awareness of the injustice of segregation and its codi-
fication into law in many cases-an awareness Tolson, his English profes-
sor and debate coach, taught him. In Farmer's student conversations
with Tolson, Jim Crow was verbally stomped to death and properly
buried, but these conversations were too often followed by trips the next
day to the local movie theater where all African Americans had to sit in
the "buzzard's roost"-the balcony. That intellectual schizophrenia,
Farmer said, stimulated him to become a catalyst in the effort to end de
jure segregation. "I decided it out of my contact here with Professor
Tolson," Farmer told Moyers in "Marshall Texas/Marshall Texas."
In 1942 Farmer Jr. received his Masters of Divinity from Howard
University School of Theology in Washington, D.C., but did not follow
his father into the Methodist ministry. The year he entered Howard
University, 1938, was also the year that the Methodist Church, north and
south, reunited. In so doing the church segregated its black members
into something it called "the Central Jurisdiction" rather than making
them a part of the six newly rejoined geographical jurisdictions. Electing
not to become a part of a racially divided church, Farmer told his father
that instead he intended to make eliminating segregation his calling.
In 1942 Farmer went to work for the pacifist Fellowship of Reconcilia-
tion in Chicago. While employed by FOR, he organized the first civil
rights sit-in in the United States. After he was denied service when he
and a white friend tried ordering coffee and doughnuts at the Jack
Spratt Restaurant in Chicago, Farmer and several others, white and
black, filled the seats at the restaurant, where they sat until all were
served. From that first encounter with Jim Crow in the North, the
Congress of Racial Equality was born. CORE successfully integrated
beaches, skating rinks, and other public facilities in the Windy City.
Farmer was transferred by FOR to New York and left the leadership of
CORE in Chicago to others. He soon left FOR and, after a stint as a
labor organizer, went to work for Roy Wilkins of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
In February 1961 Farmer was hired as the national chairman of
CORE. Three months later both the man and the organization burst
into the newspaper headlines all over the nation; the Freedom Rides
had begun and Farmer was on the front seat of the bus. Two U.S.
inspiring teacher, however, was Melvin B. Tolson, the brilliant English professor.. . Sweatt
believed that no one, with the exception of his father, had influenced him as much as Tolson
had." Sweatt was the plaintiff in a suit the NAACP filed in 1947 that was not settled until 1950,
when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the law school must integrate. A full account of Sweatt's
case can be found in Michael Gillette, "Heman Marion Sweatt: Civil Rights Plaintiff," in Black
Leaders: Texans for Their Tzmes, ed. Alwyn Barr and Robert Calvert (Austin: Texas State Historical
Association, 1981), 157-188 (quotation on 163).
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed January 29, 2015.