On May 1, 2017, the Texas Historical Commission dedicated a historical marker for James L. Farmer, Jr. in his hometown of Marshall as part of the Undertold Marker Program. The marker was researched and written by Gail Beil, a historian and scholar of African American history who has taught at Marshall’s Wiley College. The marker was placed at the Paramount Theatre, a formerly segregated movie theater that made an impression on Farmer at a young age and influenced his commitment to seeking racial equality.
The keynote speaker was Hank Thomas, a civil rights leader who was one of the original Freedom Riders in 1961. Thomas flew in from Atlanta because he believes Farmer has not received his due historically. In fact, he challenged the city by saying that the next time he returns to Marshall, he wants to see a statue of Farmer either on the courthouse lawn or at Wiley College.
In 2008, the THC had placed another James Farmer, Jr. historical marker at the home where his family lived in East Austin from 1925–1930 while his father taught at Sam Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson University). We also placed one for his father, James L. Farmer, Sr., in Marshall in 1997. James Farmer, Sr. was an esteemed professor at Wiley and other colleges, as well as a pastor and author.
To learn more about James Farmer, Jr., Hank Thomas, the Freedom Rides, and the civil rights movement, here are just a few of countless available resources:
- Farmer, James Leonard, Jr. (entry in The Handbook of Texas Online)
- Farmer, James Leonard, Sr. (entry in The Handbook of Texas Online)
- American Experience: Freedom Riders (PBS documentary)
- The Great Debaters
- African Americans in Texas: A Lasting Legacy (THC print guide and mobile tour)
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