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Lay Bare the Heart

An Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement

James Farmer

Publication Year: 2013

Texas native James Farmer is one of the “Big Four” of the turbulent 1960s civil rights movement, along with Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, and Whitney Young. Farmer might be called the forgotten man of the movement, overshadowed by Martin Luther King Jr., who was deeply influenced by Farmer’s interpretation of Gandhi’s concept of nonviolent protest.

Born in Marshall, Texas, in 1920, the son of a preacher, Farmer grew up with segregated movie theaters and “White Only” drinking fountains. This background impelled him to found the Congress of Racial Equality in 1942. That same year he mobilized the first sit-in in an all-white restaurant near the University of Chicago. Under Farmer’s direction, CORE set the pattern for the civil rights movement by peaceful protests which eventually led to the dramatic “Freedom Rides” of the 1960s.

In Lay Bare the Heart Farmer tells the story of the heroic civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s. This moving and unsparing personal account captures both the inspiring strengths and human weaknesses of a movement beset by rivalries, conflicts and betrayals. Farmer recalls meetings with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Jack and Bobby Kennedy, Adlai Stevenson (for whom he had great respect), and Lyndon Johnson (who, according to Farmer, used Adam Clayton Powell Jr., to thwart a major phase of the movement).

James Farmer has courageously worked for dignity for all people in the United States. In this book, he tells his story with forthright honesty.

First published in 1985 by Arbor House, this edition contains a new foreword by Don Carleton, director of the Dolph BriscoeCenter for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, and a new preface.

Published by: TCU Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

"Doing this book has been a kind of catharsis," James Farmer wrote in 1984 as he completed the manuscript of his remarkable autobiography. "It did not rid me of the past Instead, it placed that which has gone before in perspective, bringing me to terms with the present ... " ...

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pp. xi-xii

James Farmer didn't want his written chronicle of the Civil Rights movement to end with Lay Bare the Heart. As late as 1996, he spoke of a new book he would call The Old Warrior Speaks. Because he has lost his eyesight and both legs and suffers from congestive heart failure, another book is unlikely. ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

In any undertaking of this magnitude, noting all indebtedness would exceed the limitations of space. I would be remiss, though, if I did not especially thank Dr. William Haddon, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, for permitting the institute's word processor to be used in the drafting and editing of the manuscript. ...

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Part I: Mississippi Revisited

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pp. 1-32

Captain Ray's index finger shot through the air. "Follow that police officer," he said with professional aplomb, "and get into the patrol wagon." ...

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Part II: PK (Preacher's Kid)

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pp. 33-66

Someday, someone will do an illuminating book on PK's in the black experience. Preachers' kids. What becomes of them and what do they become and why? They lead lives unlike any others: exposed to merciless scrutiny, spared no censure, even denied most of the childhood mischief indispensable to growing up. ...

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Part III: Drawing Board

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pp. 67-116

Jim, for God's sake turn on your radio," the shrill voice of Bernice Fisher screeched over the phone. "The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor! We're going to war!" ...

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Part IV: Intellectual Coming of Age

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pp. 117-148

"Farmer, what are you reading these days?" It was the voice of Melvin B. Tolson yelling, without straining, across a hundred yards of the Wiley College campus in Marshall, Texas, in the fall of 1934. ...

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Part V: Looking for a Place to Stand

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pp. 149-184

The Harlem Ashram on Fifth Avenue, one house below 125th Street, was as incongruous in Harlem as the Bucket of Blood Bar, which faced it, would have been on a street in Bombay. ...

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Part VI: Spreading of the Wings

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pp. 185-292

The first capital of the Confederacy had become the mecca of the civil rights movement in America, and an eloquent Baptist preacher sat as its high priest and stood as its prophet. ...

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Part VII: Cut Off at the Pass

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pp. 293-314

"Mr. Farmer, I've got to get this civil rights bill through Congress, and I'm going to do it. If I never do anything else in my whole life, I'm going to get this job done. It won't be easy, but I'm going to do it. I have to get some of the Republicans on our side. You civil rights leaders can help me on that. ...

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Part VIII: The Nixon Foray

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pp. 315-346

"I am serious, Jim," spoke Robert E. Finch, Nixon's secretary-designate for Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). "I appreciated your serving on my advisory committee after I was nominated, and sitting in on the briefings I received from HEW officials. Your comments were very helpful. ...

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Part IX: Ebbtide

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pp. 347-352

Three and a half decades of pitched battles had left me war weary. At age fifty-six and in good health, I could not think of retiring. Like an aging prizefighter, I still found the shouts of the crowd aroused a pleasant nostalgia, resulting in a surge of adrenaline pumping through my veins. ...

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pp. 353-354

Martin left us with a dream unrealized and a promise unfulfilled. Our nation deceives itself with the fiction that the task is complete and racism is dead and all is well. The myth surrounds us that America suddenly has become color-blind, and that all that remains is an economic problem. ...

Appendix A

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pp. 355-360

Appendix B: James Farmer on Malek Memo

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pp. 361-362


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pp. 363-370

E-ISBN-13: 9780875655208
E-ISBN-10: 0875655203
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875651880

Page Count: 370
Publication Year: 2013