Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was founded in 1942 at the University of Chicago by a group of interracial students who followed the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, the leader who resisted British rule in India. CORE began a nonviolent campaign of civil disobedience, fighting against racial discrimination in the United States. By 1961, CORE had 53 chapters throughout the United States. By 1963, CORE chapters existed in most urban centers of the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast and on some college campuses. CORE brought together people—despite their outward differences—to fight for the rights of those who had lost their civil rights gained in the Civil War but lost soon after, especially in the southern states.

These efforts toward gaining fair treatment in transportation did not distract CORE members away from key issues such as education and political participation. In 1954, CORE members played a crucial role in the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, which ended racial segregation in public schools. While implementation was slow, Brown was an important legal victory. In 1960, the Chicago chapter of CORE began to challenge segregation in the Chicago public schools. Overcrowding, high drop-out rates, and low educational standards were common in Chicago's African American schools. This chapter's members brought attention to the problems of Chicago's black youth but also highlighted the difficulties of dismantling the de facto segregation found in the North that contrasted with the legally mandated southern version of segregation that was easier to attack.

CORE was one of five organizations that helped organize the 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, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

In 1964, CORE members joined activists involved in other civil rights organizations, including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), in the Freedom Summer project that attempted to end political disenfranchisement of African Americans in the Deep South. They set up schools that later served as the model for Head Start programs and ran voter registration drives. Black volunteers involved in the Freedom Summer projects faced increased violence, and Ku Klux Klan members specifically targeted leaders in the movement, such as Anne Moody, who survived, while three members of CORE did not. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan on June 21, 1964. Their deaths created nation-wide awareness for the campaign.

Sandra Leland Price

See also: Democratic Party ; Freedom Riders ; Interstate Commerce Act (ICA) (1887) ; King, Martin Luther, Jr. (1929–1968) ; Ku Klux Klan (KKK)


CORE. CORE Homepage. . Accessed January 3, 2013.

Franklin, John Hope. From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans (4th ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974.

Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. New York: Dell, 1992.

Sitkoff, Harvard. The Struggle for Black Equality, 1954–1980. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981.

Van Deburg, William L. New Day In Babylon: The Black Power Movement and American Culture, 1965–1975. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Weisbrot, Robert. Freedom Bound: A History of America's Civil Rights Movement. New York: Norton, 1990.