Congress of Racial Equality
Formation1942; 82 years ago (1942)
PurposeTo bring about equality for all people regardless of race, creed, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion or ethnic background.
HeadquartersLas Vegas, Nevada, United States[1]

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) is an African-American civil rights organization in the United States that played a pivotal role for African Americans in the civil rights movement. Founded in 1942, its stated mission is "to bring about equality for all people regardless of race, creed, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion or ethnic background."[2]



CORE was founded in Chicago, Illinois, in March 1942. The organization's founding members included James Leonard Farmer Jr., Anna Pauline "Pauli" Murray, George Mills Houser, Elsie Bernice Fisher and Homer A. Jack and James R Robinson. Of the 50 original founding members, 28 were men and 22 were women, roughly one-third of them were Black and the other two-thirds white.[3][4] Bayard Rustin, while not a founding member of the organization, was (as Farmer and Houser later noted) "an uncle to CORE" and provided it with significant support. The group had evolved out of the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation, and sought to apply the principles of nonviolence as a tactic against racial segregation.[5] The group was inspired by Indian nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi's support for nonviolent resistance.[6] Indian writer and journalist Krishnalal Shridharani, who was known as a vibrant and theatrical public speaker, had been a protege of Gandhi—being jailed with him in the Salt March—and whose 1939 book War Without Violence heavily influenced the organization.[7] During the period in which CORE was founded, Gandhi's leadership of the independence movement in India against British colonial rule was reaching its apogee; CORE sought to apply the nonviolent anti-colonial tactics pioneered by Gandhi and his followers to successfully challenge racial segregation and racism in the United States through civil disobedience.[8][4][9]

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 and usually unpaid officers, and numerous committees 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 also in de facto school segregation. "Jim Crow" laws are laws that enforce racial segregation and discrimination in the United States.

Some of CORE's main leadership had strong disagreements with the Deacons for Defense and Justice over the Deacons' public threat to racist Southerners that they would use armed self-defense to protect CORE workers from racist organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan, in Louisiana during the 1960s. Others, however, strongly supported the organization. By the mid-1960s, Farmer tried to incorporate elements of the emerging black nationalist sentiments within CORE—sentiments that, among other things, would quickly lead to an embrace of Black Power. Farmer failed to reconcile these tensions, and he resigned in 1966, but he backed his replacement, Floyd McKissick.[10][11]

Congress of Racial Equality march in Washington DC, on September 22, 1963, in memory of the children killed in the Birmingham bombings. The banner, which says "No more Birminghams", shows a picture of the aftermath of the bombing.

By 1961 CORE had 53 chapters throughout the United States. By 1963, most of the major urban centers of the Northeast, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic 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 Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky.[12]

Freedom Rides

Main article: Freedom Riders

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 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.[13][14]

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, Alabama, one of the buses was fire-bombed and passengers were beaten by a white mob. White mobs also attacked Freedom Riders in Birmingham and Montgomery.[15] The violence garnered national attention, sparking a summer of similar rides by CORE, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and other civil rights organizations and thousands of ordinary citizens.[16]

Desegregating Chicago's schools

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In the 1960s, the Chicago chapter of CORE began to challenge racial segregation in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). By the late 1950s, the Chicago Board of Education's maintenance of the neighborhood school policy resulted in a pattern of racial segregation in the CPS. Predominantly black schools were situated in predominantly black neighborhoods on the south and west sides of the city, while predominantly white schools were located in predominantly white areas in the north, northwest and southwest sides of Chicago.[17]

Many segregated schools were overcrowded, and in order to ease overcrowding, the Board instated double-shifts at some schools. Double-shifts meant that students in affected schools attended less than a full day of class. In another measure to alleviate overcrowding at some schools, the Board sanctioned the construction of mobile classroom units. Moreover, a significant proportion of students dropped out before finishing high school. Faculty was segregated, and many teachers in predominantly black schools lacked full-time teaching experience compared to teachers in white schools. In addition, the history curriculum did not mention African Americans. According to CORE, "school segregation [was] a damaging bacteria, a psychological handicap, which [festered] a disease generating widespread unemployment and crime in Chicago".[18]

Between 1960 and 1963, CORE wrote letters about the conditions of schools to the Board of Education (headed by Superintendent Benjamin Willis), Mayor Richard J. Daley, the Illinois House of Representatives and the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In addition, CORE attended the Board's school budget hearings, speaking against segregation and asking for the Board to implement transfer plans to desegregate the schools. In July 1963, CORE staged a week-long sit-in and protest at the Board office in downtown Chicago in response to the Board's inaction. Finally, Board President Claire Roddewig and Willis agreed to meet with CORE to negotiate integration, but no significant changes came to the schools.[19]

During the mid-1960s, CORE turned towards community involvement, seeking to equip Chicagoans with ways to challenge segregation. Freedom Houses, transfer petitions, community rallies and meetings served to educate Chicagoans about segregation and provide them with tools to circumnavigate the neighborhood school policy.[20]

By 1966, the Chicago Freedom Movement, led by Martin Luther King Jr., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Chicago's Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO), had assumed control over civil rights demonstrations and negotiations. While CORE was a member organization of the CCCO, it increasingly lost influence over desegregation efforts. And when the Chicago Freedom Movement met with representatives of the city to negotiate in the summer of 1966, they agreed on ten fair housing reforms but did not discuss reforms to desegregate the schools. While CORE played no role in the housing summit, it had shifted towards promoting and developing Black power in Chicago. By fall of 1966, CORE was no longer a civil rights organization, but a Black power organization. Changes in CORE's national leadership and continued inaction on behalf of the Board to desegregate the schools pushed CORE towards separatism and away from desegregation efforts. The chapter collapsed in October 1968.[citation needed]

Desegregating Durham

In 1962, CORE set up a headquarters in Durham, North Carolina where upon arrival, local black women activists, including Sadie Sawyer Hughley, welcomed them into their homes.[21] CORE worked with the local NAACP to organize pickets at Eckerd's Drug Store and Howard Johnson's. The goals were to increase employment opportunities for black workers and integrate local restaurants.

March on Washington

Main article: March on Washington

A CORE sign displayed as Robert F. Kennedy speaks to a crowd outside the Department of Justice Building in June 1963

In 1963, the organization helped organize the famous March on Washington. On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 people marched peacefully to the Lincoln Memorial 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.[22]

"Freedom Summer"

Main article: Freedom Summer

The following year, CORE along with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) helped organize the "Freedom Summer" campaign—aimed principally at ending the political disenfranchisement of African Americans in the Deep South. Operating under the umbrella coalition of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), volunteers from the three organizations concentrated their 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 (MFDP). 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.[23]

CORE, SNCC and COFO 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 June 21, 1964 (see Murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner). These deaths created nationwide publicity for the campaign.[24][25]

Brooklyn Chapter of CORE

In New York City, the Brooklyn chapter of CORE was seen as one of the most radical chapters of CORE. This chapter employed increasingly aggressive tactics with a focus on racial discrimination. Primarily, the Brooklyn chapter of CORE used community-based activism which made it one of the most influential chapters in history. In 1964, the group held a Stall-In, deliberately preventing the flow of traffic to the World Fair with the goal of drawing attention to racial discrimination, which was one of their main focuses. Brooklyn's CORE's aggressive tactics would cause it to be suspended from the National CORE groups.[26] Additionally, Brooklyn's CORE used the slogan "Jim Crow Must Go" to raise awareness about the unequal schooling that African American children faced at this time as well as the overall unequal treatment of African Americans. While this slogan was typically associated with the south because they had Jim Crow Laws, using it in the north allowed Brooklyn's CORE leaders to gain public acknowledgement that the north also had racial discrimination issues, just as the south did. [27]

Harlem Chapter of CORE

At the same time in New York City, the Harlem chapter of CORE was also very active in supporting African Americans in New York. The Harlem chapter joined forces with Columbia University's Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Mau Mau, and other Harlem residents in order to protest different causes that stemmed from institutionalized racism. One of these causes was the opposition of Columbia University's perceived complacency in surrounding the Vietnam War. These groups also voiced their opinions that they were not in support of the university making plans for the building of a gym in Morningside Park and brought awareness to the lack of student involvement in discipline at Columbia University.[28] In addition to these efforts, the Harlem chapter of CORE gathered food and resources in Hamilton Hall for the impoverished to use as needed throughout this.

March in Cicero, Illinois

On September 4, 1966, Robert Lucas and fellow members of CORE led activists through Cicero, Illinois, to pressure the city of Chicago's white leaders into making solid commitments to open housing. Shortly before the march, Chicago city officials, including Mayor Richard J. Daley, negotiated a Fair Housing agreement with Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, Al Raby and others in exchange for an end of demonstrations.[29] Nevertheless, Robert Lucas and other members of CORE felt that the march was strategically necessary and proceeded with it anyway.[30] The march is documented in the 1966 short documentary film Cicero March, which was added to the National Film Registry in 2013.

Since 1966

CORE President Roy Innis (2nd from left) and then wife Doris Funnye Innis (center) with a delegation from CORE is greeted by Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta (left).

In 1966, James Farmer resigned as Director of CORE, to be replaced by Black Power advocate Floyd McKissick until 1968, when California activist Wilfred T. Ussery served a brief term as national chairman. He was replaced by Roy Innis, who was National Chairman until his death in 2017.[31] Innis initially led the organization to strongly support black nationalism. However, subsequent political developments within the organization led it to support conservative political positions.[32]

The FBI's "COINTELPRO" program targeted civil rights groups, including the CORE, for infiltration, discreditation and disruption.[33] In August 1967, the FBI instructed its program "COINTELPRO" to "neutralize" what the FBI called "black nationalist hate groups" and other dissident groups.[34]

A CORE delegation toured seven African countries in 1971. Innis met with several heads of state, including Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Liberia’s William Tolbert and Uganda's Idi Amin, all of whom were a life membership to CORE.[35] In 1973 Innis became the first American to attend the Organization of African Unity (OAU) as a delegate.

In 1981, to settle illegal fundraising allegations under Roy Innis, CORE paid a $35,000 fine.[36]

CORE provides immigration services to immigrants in the preparation of petitions and applications to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. CORE also provides classes for immigrants in fields such as English and American Civics in its center in Nevada.[37]


Winning victories in northern cities in the 1940s and 1950s, CORE became active in the South with the lunch counter sit-ins of 1960. The following year CORE organized "Freedom Rides," sending black and white students south to disrupt segregated interstate bus service. Drawing much of its membership from college campuses, CORE kept up civil disobedience campaigns in the North as well as the South. They also organized activities in California, where they protested housing discrimination in San Francisco and Los Angeles, held a Western Region Conference in the Sacramento area, and launched an equal employment campaign at restaurants and stores throughout the state. In 1968, Seattle's chapter of CORE decided that, in order for it to function best in the community, it needed to be an all-black organization.

International activities

CORE has an African branch based in Uganda, with Fiona Kobusingye as is its director.[38] 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, and it has partnered with a variety of conservative and libertarian think tanks in this effort.[39] In 2007, CORE organized a 300-mile walk across Uganda to promote DDT-based interventions against malaria.[40]


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."[41]

CORE has been criticized by environmentalist groups for its efforts promoting DDT use against malaria in Africa. An article in Mother Jones magazine accused the group of selling influence, writing that, "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 a reported $40,000 from ExxonMobil."[42][43] In his book Not A Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy, Donald Gutstein wrote that "In recent years CORE used its African-American facade to work with conservative groups to attack organizations like Greenpeace and undermine environmental regulation."[39]

See also


  1. ^ "Congress of Racial Equality - Donation Page". (Gives full mailing address and phone number for sending donations.)
  2. ^ "About the Congress of Racial Equality (702) 637-7968". Congress Of Racial Equality. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  3. ^ Meier, August & Rudwick, Elliot (1975). CORE: A Study in the Civil Rights Movement. University of Illinois Press.
  4. ^ a b Nishani, Frazier (2017). Harambee City: the Congress of Racial Equality in Cleveland and the rise of Black Power populism. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. pp. 3–26. ISBN 9781610756013. OCLC 973832475.
  5. ^ "This is CORE" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 5, 2010.
  6. ^ Homes, George. "The Congress of Racial Equality"
  7. ^ Hardiman, David (2003). Gandhi in His Time and Ours: The Global Legacy of His Ideas. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 256. ISBN 978-1-85065-712-5.
  8. ^ Meier and Rudwick, CORE, pp. 3–23.
  9. ^ Sudarshan Kapur, Raising up a Prophet. The African-American encounter with Gandhi (Boston: Beacon Press 1992), pp. 117-123, 137-138, 162 (CORE and Farmer); 7-8, 120-122, 150 (Shridharani).
  10. ^ Meyer and Rudwick, CORE, pp. 374–408.
  11. ^ Nishani, Frazier (2017). Harambee City: the Congress of Racial Equality in Cleveland and the rise of Black Power populism. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. pp. 135–140. ISBN 9781610756013. OCLC 973832475.
  12. ^ "Sutori". Retrieved 2022-05-25.
  13. ^ Meier and Rudwick, CORE, pp. 33–39.
  14. ^ Nishani, Frazier (2017). Harambee City: the Congress of Racial Equality in Cleveland and the rise of Black Power populism. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. pp. 43–45. ISBN 9781610756013. OCLC 973832475.
  15. ^ Freedom Rides ~ Civil Rights Movement Archive
  16. ^ Meier and Rudwick, CORE, pp. 135–145.
  17. ^ Parrish, Madeleine; Ikoro, Chima (2022-02-25). "Chicago Public Schools and Segregation". South Side Weekly. Retrieved 2022-05-18.
  18. ^ CORE Rebuttal to CBS Standpoint editorial broadcast program, January 16, 1964, Chicago, CHM, CORE Papers, Box 2.
  19. ^ "5.10: Changes in American Culture Brought About by Governmental Policies". K12 LibreTexts. 2020-08-30. Retrieved 2023-07-04.
  20. ^ "Oct. 22, 1963: Chicago School Boycott". Zinn Education Project. Retrieved 2023-07-04.
  21. ^ Greene, Christina (2005-01-01). Our separate ways: women and the Black freedom movement in Durham, North Carolina. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807856000. OCLC 65183735.
  22. ^ "Civil Rights March on Washington (History, Facts, Martin Luther King Jr.)". Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  23. ^ Meier and Rudwick, CORE, pp. 269–281.
  24. ^ "Freedom Riders". Archived from the original on February 16, 2007.
  25. ^ "Congress of Racial Equality - Black History -". Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  26. ^ "Congress of Racial Equality. Brooklyn Chapter - Social Networks and Archival Context". Retrieved 2023-04-19.
  27. ^ Purnell, Brian (2013). Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings : the Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn. Lexington, Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-4184-8. OCLC 842972115.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  28. ^ Slonecker, B. (2008-06-01). "The Columbia Coalition: African Americans, New Leftists, and Counterculture at the Columbia University Protest of 1968". Journal of Social History. 41 (4): 967–996. doi:10.1353/jsh.0.0034. ISSN 0022-4529. S2CID 143074793.
  29. ^ James, Frank. "Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago". Chicago Tribune.
  31. ^ "CORE Facts". Congress Of Racial Equality. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  32. ^ Nishani, Frazier (2017). Harambee City: the Congress of Racial Equality in Cleveland and the rise of Black Power populism. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. pp. 109–206. ISBN 9781610756013. OCLC 973832475.
  33. ^ "Federal Surveillance of African Americans". University of North Carolina Wilmington.
  34. ^ "COINTELPRO" A Huey P. Newton Story, Public Broadcasting System website.
  35. ^ Mitchell, Alison (September 13, 1993). "Mayoral Race Is Overshadowed In New York Primary Tomorrow – New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2007.
  36. ^ Charles, Nick, "Equal Opportunity Scam", The Village Voice, April 22, 2003.
  37. ^ "Immigration 101". Congress Of Racial Equality. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  38. ^ "Core Africa – Defining Search Engine Optimization". Archived from the original on 2010-05-03. Retrieved 2023-12-20.
  39. ^ a b Gutstein, Donald (November 24, 2009). Not a Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy. Key Porter Books. ISBN 978-1554701919. Relevant section excerpted at: Gutstein, Donald (January 22, 2010). "Inside the DDT Propaganda Machine". The Tyee. Retrieved 22 January 2010.
  40. ^ Hilary Bainemigisha, "Uganda: Walking Kampala to Gulu to Fight Malaria" (Page 1 of 1)., July 10, 2007.
  41. ^ "The Congress Of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.) is Founded". African American Registry. Retrieved 2022-05-25.
  42. ^ "Put a Tiger In Your Think Tank", Mother Jones, May/June 2005.
  43. ^ Mencimer, Stephanie Mencimer (November 10, 2009). "Tea Partiers' Next Target: The Climate Bill". Mother Jones. Retrieved November 10, 2009.