Congress of Racial Equality

The Congress of Racial Equality or CORE is a civil rights organization that played a pivotal role in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century.

CORE was founded by a group of college students led by James L. Farmer, Jr., Berniece Fisher and George Houser. 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 but was not pacifist itself. Rather, it sought to apply the principles of nonviolence as a tactic against segregation, based in part on the writings of Henry David Thoreau and modeled after Mohandas Gandhi's non-violent resistance against British rule in India. Farmer believed that nonviolent civil disobedience could be used by African-Americans to challenge racial segregation in the South and eventually other parts of the United States.

On April 9, 1947, CORE sent a group of eight white and eight black men on what was to be a two-week Journey of Reconciliation through Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky 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, 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 and garnered national attention, sparking a summer of similar rides by other Civil Rights leaders and thousands of ordinary citizens.

CORE leadership had strong disagreements with the Deacons for Defense and Justice over their threat to use violent tactics to protect CORE workers from racist organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan, in Louisiana during the 1960s. By the mid-1960s, however, Farmer was growing disenchanted with the emerging militancy and black nationalist sentiments within CORE and resigned in 1966.

At a conference in Oakland, California, in July 1967, the group struck from its constitution the phrase calling CORE a "multi-racial organization". It then adopted new constitution advocating "Black Power" as a goal at a conference in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 16, 1968. The St. Louis meeting was the re-convening of a conference in held in July 1968 in Columbus, Ohio, where some delegates had walked out due to the new constitution proposal. One such resolution was the decision to exclude all whites from membership in the organization.

Membership in CORE is 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."

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