As co-founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), James Farmer was one of the major leaders of the African American freedom struggle. In a 1997 interview, Farmer said: “I don’t see any future for the nation without integration. Our lives are intertwined, our work is intertwined, our education is intertwined” (Smith, “Civil Rights Leader”). Farmer credited Martin Luther King and the Montgomery bus boycott with educating the public on nonviolent tactics: “No longer did we have to explain nonviolence to people. Thanks to Martin Luther King, it was a household word” (Farmer, 188).
Though SNCC representatives pleaded with King to join them on the Freedom Rides, he declined, citing his probation for a May 1960 traffic violation.1 In this telegram, Williams, who had clashed with King in 1959 over the role of self-defense in the movement, calls King a “phony” for refusing to participate and challenges him to “lead the way by example.”2