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The Congress of Racial Equality or CORE is a U.S.marker civil rights organization that played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement from its foundation in 1942 to the mid-1960s. Membership in CORE is stated to be open to "anyone who believes that 'all people are created equal' and is willing to work towards the ultimate goal of true equality throughout the world." In 1968 Roy Innis took control of CORE and the organization's politics moved sharply to the right.


CORE was founded in Chicago in 1942 by James L. Farmer, Jr., George Houser, James R. Robinson and Bernice Fisher. Bayard Rustin, while not a father of the organization, was "an uncle to CORE", Farmer and Houser later said.

CORE evolved out of the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation. The Congress of Racial Equality sought to apply the principles of nonviolence as a tactic against segregation. The group's inspiration was Krishnalal Shridharani's book War Without Violence (1939, Harcourt Brace), which outlined Gandhi's step-by-step procedures for organizing people and mounting a nonviolent campaign. Shridharani, a popular writer and journalist as well as a vibrant and theatrical speaker, had been a protege of Gandhi and had been jailed in the Salt March. Gandhi had, in turn, been influenced by the writings of Henry David Thoreau. Mohandas Gandhi was then still engaged in non-violent resistance against British rule in Indiamarker.

CORE believed that nonviolent civil disobedience could be used by African-Americans to challenge racial segregation in the United Statesmarker.

Civil rights campaigns

By 1961 CORE had 53 chapters throughout the United States. By 1963, most of the major urban centers of the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast had one or more CORE chapters, including a growing number of chapters on college campuses. In the South, CORE had active chapters and projects in Louisianamarker, Mississippimarker, Floridamarker, South Carolinamarker, and Kentuckymarker.

In accordance with CORE's constitution and bylaws, in the early and mid-1960s, chapters were organized on a model similar to that of a democratic trade union with monthly membership meetings, elected officers — usually unpaid — and numerous committees composed of volunteers. In the South, CORE's nonviolent direct-action campaigns opposed "Jim Crow" segregation and job discrimination, and fought for voting rights. Outside the South, CORE focused on discrimination in employment and housing, and defacto school segregation.

Freedom Rides

On April 10, 1947, CORE sent a group of eight white (including James Peck, their publicity officer) and eight black men on what was to be a two-week Journey of Reconciliation through Virginiamarker, North Carolinamarker, Tennesseemarker, and Kentuckymarker in an effort to end segregation in interstate travel. The members of this group were arrested and jailed several times, but they received a great deal of publicity, and this marked the beginning of a long series of similar campaigns.

By the early 1960s, Farmer, who had taken a hiatus from leading the group, returned as its executive secretary and sought to repeat the 1947 journey, coining a new name for it: the Freedom Ride.

On May 4, 1961, participants journeyed to the deep South, this time including women as well as men and testing segregated bus terminals as well. The riders were met with severe violence. In Anniston, Alabamamarker, one of the buses was fire-bombed and passengers were beaten by a white mob. White mobs also attacked Freedom Riders in Birminghammarker and Montgomerymarker. The violence garnered national attention, sparking a summer of similar rides by CORE, SNCC and other Civil Rights organizations and thousands of ordinary citizens.

March on Washington

In 1963, the organization helped organize the famous March on Washington. On 28 August 1963, more than 250,000 people marched peacefully to the Lincoln Memorialmarker to demand equal justice for all citizens under the law. At the end of the march Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Freedom Summer

The following year, CORE, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) organized its Freedom Summer campaign. Its main objective was to attempt to end the political disenfranchisement of African Americans in the Deep South. Volunteers from the three organizations decided to concentrate its efforts in Mississippi. In 1962 only 6.7 percent of African Americans in the state were registered to vote, the lowest percentage in the country. This involved the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party . Over 80,000 people joined the party and 68 delegates attended the Democratic Party Convention in Atlantic City and challenged the attendance of the all-white Mississippi representation.

CORE, SNCC and NAACP also established 30 Freedom Schools in towns throughout Mississippi. Volunteers taught in the schools and the curriculum now included black history, the philosophy of the civil rights movement. During the summer of 1964 over 3,000 students attended these schools and the experiment provided a model for future educational programs such as Head Start.

Freedom Schools were often targets of white mobs. So also were the homes of local African Americans involved in the campaign. That summer 30 black homes and 37 black churches were firebombed. Over 80 volunteers were beaten by white mobs or racist police officers. Three CORE activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan on 21 June 1964 (see Mississippi civil rights workers murders). These deaths created nation-wide publicity for the campaign.

Internal disagreements

Some CORE leadership had strong disagreements with the Deacons for Defense and Justice over the Deacons' threat to use armed self-defense to protect CORE workers from racist organizations, such as the KKK, in Louisianamarker during the 1960s. By the mid-1960s, Farmer was growing disenchanted with the emerging black nationalist sentiments within CORE, and he resigned in 1966, to be replaced by Floyd McKissick.

CORE since 1968

Since 1968, CORE has been led by National Chairman Roy Innis, who initially led the organization to strongly support Black Nationalism. However, subsequent political developments within the organization led it turn more towards the right. CORE supported the presidential candidacy of Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972. An article in Mother Jones magazine said of the modern organization that it "is better known among real civil rights groups for renting out its historic name to any corporation in need of a black front person. The group has taken money from the payday-lending industry, chemical giant (and original DDT manufacturer) Monsanto, and ExxonMobil."

Recently, on same sex marriage and black health in the U.S.: "When you say to society at large that you have to accept, not only accept our lifestyle, but promote it and put it on the same plane and equate it with traditional marriage, that's where we draw the line and we say 'no.' That's not something that is a civil right. That is not something that is a human right," said Niger Innis, national spokesman for CORE, and son of Roy Innis. COREcares, an HIV/AIDS advocacy, education and prevention program for black women, was dismantled due to pressure from Project 21. Innis is on the board of the conservative Project 21 organization.

According to an interview given by James Farmer in 1993, "CORE has no functioning chapters; it holds no conventions, no elections, no meetings, sets no policies, has no social programs and does no fund-raising. In my opinion, CORE is fraudulent."

CORE in Africa

During the 1970s, CORE supported Ugandan military dictator Idi Amin, who was awarded a life membership.

CORE has an African branch based in Uganda, with Fiona Kobusingye as is its director. Bringing attention to the malaria crisis is one of the organization's main activities, and it has championed the use of DDT to fight the disease. In 2007, CORE organized a 300-mile walk across Uganda to promote DDT-based interventions against malaria. CORE paid university students to participate in the walk, and then left them in Kampalamarker at the walk's conclusion without means of returning home. "We feel used, dumped and taught to lie," said one student. CORE staff said the students were exaggerating.

See also


  1. Meier and Rudwick, CORE, pp. 3-23.
  2. Meier and Rudwick, CORE, pp. 33-39.
  3. Freedom Rides ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  4. Meier and Rudwick, CORE, pp. 135-145.
  5. Meier and Rudwick, CORE, pp. 269-281.
  6. Freedom Riders
  7. Meyer and Rudwick, CORE, pp. 374-408.
  12. Uganda: Walking Kampala to Gulu to Fight Malaria (Page 1 of 1)
  13. Uganda: NGO Abandons Students in Kampala (Page 1 of 1)


  • August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, CORE: A Study in the Civil Rights Movement, 1942-1968 (1973; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975). ISBN 0-252-00567-8
  • James Farmer, Lay Bare the Heart: An Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Arbor House, 1985). ISBN 0-87795-624-3

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