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Guide to the Chicago Chapter, Congress of Racial Equality Archives, 1947-1990

Processed by:

Traci Parker, Mapping the Stacks, University of Chicago

Supervised by:

Michael Flug, Senior Archivist, Chicago Public Library, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature

Descriptive Summary


Chicago Chapter, Congress of Racial Equality Archives




2 linear feet (3 archival boxes)


Chicago Public Library
Carter G. Woodson Regional Library
Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature
9525 S. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60628

Note on the Provenance

Collection donated by John Stuckey via Don Watanabe, 2007.


No restrictions


When quoting material from this collection the preferred citation is: Chicago Congress of Racial Equality Archives [Box #, Folder #], Chicago Public Library, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature

Organization History

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was founded in Chicago in 1942 as the Committee of Racial Equality (the organization underwent a name change in 1944) by African American and white student activists who were staunch believers in pacifism and committed to the abolition of racial discrimination. Under the leadership of James Farmer and George Houser, both of whom were students at the University of Chicago, CORE pioneered the use of nonviolent tactics, such as sit-ins, jail-ins, picket lines, freedom rides, and other forms of civil disobedience to assault segregation in public accommodations, housing, education, and employment. By the 1960s, CORE emerged as one of the leading civil rights organizations in the nation.

During its early years, CORE was primarily “a loose collection of chapters dependent on volunteers rather than a true national organization.” It organized sit-ins and picket lines to protest segregation in public accommodations and had success in integrating public facilities throughout the North. Yet despite these successes, the organization began to decline during the late 1940s and early 1950s. It struggled to obtain “the funds necessary to employ a staff and create a permanent administration,” suffered from internal disagreements over leadership and strategies, and consequently witnessed the closing of several of its chapters.

One of the chapters that became inactive during this period was the Chicago chapter – CORE’s founding chapter and once one of the organization’s most active and militant chapters. During the 1940s and 1950s, the Chicago chapter succeeded in desegregating several Chicago restaurants and businesses such as the White City Roller Rink in 1946. It reorganized in the early 1960s and mounted hard-hitting campaigns against de facto segregation in schools, housing, and employment. For example, in 1963, the chapter sat in at the Board of Education to protest the construction of mobile classrooms for overcrowded black schools. It also fought for the elimination of slum housing and led open housing campaigns. On September 4, 1966 Chicago CORE chairman Robert Lucas led over 250 marchers through Cicero to demand desegregation of housing. The efforts of the Chicago chapter typified CORE activities in the North during the 1960s.

On the national level, CORE was revived in the mid-1950s because of the continued dedication of its remaining members as well as a renewed sense of purpose gained from the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. CORE decided to channel the majority of its energies on the South. In 1955 the organization provided the Montgomery bus boycott with its philosophical commitment to nonviolence and dispatched LeRoy Carter, an African American field secretary, to provide support. When the Greensboro sit-ins began in February 1960, CORE members rushed to North Carolina to provide guidance for action and organized demonstrations to support the protesters. In the summer of 1961 CORE organized the Freedom Rides, a series of confrontational bus rides throughout the South by African American and white CORE members to end segregated interstate buses and terminals. CORE also cosponsored the March on Washington, participated in President John F. Kennedy’s Voter Education Project, and contributed leadership and resources to the Mississippi Freedom Summer project.

In 1966 James Farmer – who became the organization’s first national chairman and national director in February 1961 – retired from CORE. He was succeeded by Floyd B. McKissick. McKissick’s election marked a drastic shift in the organization’s philosophy and tactics, from nonviolence and interracialism to Black Power and nationalism. Two years later, in 1968, CORE underwent another shift when McKissick was replaced by Roy Innis. With Innis at the helm, CORE became politically conservative on issues ranging from civil rights legislation and foreign policy to gun control and welfare. Consequently, many lifetime CORE members, including Farmer, severed all ties with the organization.


  • Anderson, Alan B. and George W. Pickering. Confronting the Color Line: The Broken Promise of the Civil Rights Movement in Chicago. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987.
  • Bell, Inge Powell. CORE and the Strategy of Nonviolence. New York: Random House, 1968.
  • Clarkin, Thomas. “Congress of Racial Equality.” In The Encyclopedia of Civil Rights in America, vol. 1, ed. David Bradley and Shelley Fisher Fishkin. Armonk, New York: Sharpe Reference, 1998.
  • Farmer, James. Lay Bare the Heart: An Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Arbor House, 1985.
  • George, Carol V. R. “Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).” In Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, vol. 2, ed. Colin A. Palmer. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2006.
  • Meier, August and Elliot Rudwick. CORE: A Study in the Civil Rights Movement, 1942-1968. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975.
  • Robinson, Jo Ann O. “Congress of Racial Equality.” In Encyclopedia of African-American Civil Rights: From Emancipation to Present, ed. Charles D. Lowry and John F. Marszalek. New York: Greenword Press, 1992.
  • Smith, Preston H., II. “Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).” In Encyclopedia of Chicago, ed. James R. Grossman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

Scope and Content

The Chicago Chapter of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Archives contain the papers of Chicago CORE, its Southside subchapter, Metropolitan CORE, and the National CORE. This collection has been arranged by chapters, beginning with Chicago CORE and followed by the Metropolitan CORE and the National CORE. The Chicago CORE chapter records include constitutions and by-laws, committee minutes, manuscripts, programs, and clippings. Of interest are the constitution and by-laws for the Southside chapter, and a letter sent by Faith Rich detailing CORE’s activities in the Chicago school campaign in 1963. Also included are clippings which detail the organization’s activities from 1961 to 1965, such as Freedom Rides and the anti-slum campaign. The Metropolitan CORE papers consist of constitutions and by-laws, membership committee records, manuscripts, correspondence, programs, and serials. Following the Metropolitan CORE records are papers of the National CORE. These papers consist of its 1961 constitution, parliamentary procedures, and a manuscript entitled, “Tenant Organizing Techniques.”

The Chicago Chapter of CORE Archives also include subject files on the American Friends Service Committee and the Young Peoples Socialist League; audio and written interviews of CORE members, such as Don Watanabe, Milton Davis, and Francine Cleo Wilson; and 24 photographs of CORE and its members. These photographs include images of the Freedom Riders Press Conference in 1961 and Chicago Board of Education demonstrations in 1963.


Box 1

Folder 1

CORE, Chicago, Constitution and By-laws, 1962

Box 1

Folder 2

CORE, Chicago, List of Subchapter Offices, n.d.

Box 1

Folder 3

CORE, Chicago (Southside Chapter), Constitution and By-laws, n.d.

Box 1

Folder 4

CORE, Chicago, Direct Action Committee, 1963

Box 1

Folder 5

CORE, Chicago, Executive Committee, 1964, n.d.

Box 1

Folder 6

CORE, Chicago, Membership Committee, 1964-1965, n.d.

Box 1

Folder 7

CORE, Chicago, Revised Program (Mrs. Velma Hill), n.d.

Box 1

Folder 8

CORE, Chicago, Steering Committee, 1964, n.d.

Box 1

Folder 9

CORE, Chicago, Team Two, 1964

Box 1

Folder 10

CORE, Chicago, Manuscripts, Program Committee Proposal, n.d.

Box 1

Folder 11

CORE, Chicago, Manuscripts, Untitled Manuscripts on CORE’s mission, 1964

Box 1

Folder 12

CORE, Chicago, Correspondence, Anderson, Jackie and Samuel E. Riley, 1962

Box 1

Folder 13

CORE, Chicago, Correspondence, Rich, Faith (re: Chicago School Campaign), 1963

Box 1

Folder 14

CORE, Chicago, Programs, Flyers, 1958, 1964

Box 1

Folder 15

CORE, Chicago, Programs, Freedom Day II, 1964

Box 1

Folder 16

CORE, Chicago, Programs, Protest Against Major Southside Slum Owners and Managers, 1963

Box 1

Folder 17

CORE, Chicago, Clippings, 1947

Box 1

Folder 18

CORE, Chicago, Clippings, 1961

Box 1

Folder 19

CORE, Chicago, Clippings, 1963

Box 1

Folder 20

CORE, Chicago, Clippings, 1964

Box 1

Folder 21

CORE, Chicago, Clippings, 1965

Box 1

Folder 22

CORE, Chicago, Clippings, n.d.

Box 1

Folder 23

CORE, Metropolitan, Constitution and By-laws, n.d.

Box 1

Folder 24

CORE, Metropolitan, Membership Committee, 1964

Box 1

Folder 25

CORE, Metropolitan, Manuscripts, Proposal, Study of Chicago Metropolitan CORE, n.d.

Box 1

Folder 26

CORE, Metropolitan, Correspondence, Author Unknown, “Memo #1 on the Summer Project,” 1964

Box 1

Folder 27

CORE, Metropolitan, Correspondence, Field, Florence N., n.d.

Box 1

Folder 28

CORE, Metropolitan, Programs, Josh White Lecture, 1964

Box 1

Folder 29

CORE, Metropolitan, Programs, “Negro and the Protest Movement, 1963”

Box 1

Folder 30

CORE, Metropolitan, Programs, “Slums – Chicago,” 1964

Box 1

Folder 31

CORE, Metropolitan, Serials, “Freedom Fighter” newsletter, 1964

Box 1

Folder 32

CORE, National, Constitution, 1961

Box 1

Folder 33

CORE, National, Parliamentary Procedure, 1963

Box 1

Folder 34

CORE, National, Manuscripts, “Tenant Organizing Techniques,” n.d.

Box 1

Folder 35

Subject Files, American Friends Service Committee, 1963

Box 1

Folder 36

Subject Files, Young Peoples Socialist League, 1963

Box 1

Folder 37

A/V, Transcript of Interview, Don Watanabe, 10/25/1988

Box 1

Folder 38

A/V, Transcript of Interview, Francine Cleo Wilson, 7/28/1990

Box 1

Folder 39

A/V, Transcript of Interview, Milton Davis, 10/25/1988

Box 1

Folder 40

A/V, Transcript of Interview, Steward Rist, 8/14/1989

Box 2

A/V 001

Interview, Rafike (Ron Woodward), 10/12/1988 [audiotape]

Box 2

A/V 002

Interview, Milton Davis, 10/25/1988 [audiotape]

Box 2

A/V 003

Interview, Don Watanabe, 10/25/1988 [audiotape]

Box 2

A/V 004

Interview, Steward Rist, 8/14/1989 [audiotape]

Box 2

A/V 005

Interview, Rafike (Ron Woodward), 8/28/1989 [audiotape]

Box 2

A/V 006

Interview, Don Watanabe, 9/17/1990 [audiotape]

Box 3

Photo 001

Freedom Riders Press Conference (l to r: Sterling Stuckey, Doris Castle, David Dennis, Jerome Smith), 6/1/1961

Box 3

Photo 002

Students from University of Chicago: Jacqueline Stephens, Mrs. Elizabeth Kern, and Jo Adler, 1/25/1962

Box 3

Photo 003

Thirteen members of CORE stage a sit in at office of President of the Board of Education, Clair Roddewig, 7/10/1963

Box 3

Photo 004

Barbara Bynum passed out during demonstration of Board of Education; Richard Williams holding her, 7/22/1963

Box 3

Photo 005

228 N. LaSalle Street, Board of Education Bldg., Sitters Surrounded by Police in the Lobby, 7/22/1963

Box 3

Photo 006

Policeman removing CORE picket from Board of Education Building, 7/22/1963

Box 3

Photo 007

Sit-in at Board of Education, 7/22/1963

Box 3

Photo 008

CORE sit-in at lobby of Board of Education, 7/22/1963

Box 3

Photo 009

Crowds in hall outside meeting room with meeting in progress, Board of Education Building at 228 N. LaSalle Street, 8/14/1963

Box 3

Photo 010

People standing and sitting on floor outside board room during meeting at 228 N. LaSalle Street, Board of Education Building, 8/14/1963

Box 3

Photo 011

Sit-in at Board of Education Building, 10/11/1963

Box 3

Photo 012

Demonstrators at sit-in in the lobby of Board of Education Building, 10/11/1963

Box 3

Photo 013

Sit-in demonstration Board of Education Building, 10/11/1963

Box 3

Photo 014

Demonstrators in lobby of Board of Education Building being forcibly removed and taken to jail, 10/11/1963

Box 3

Photo 015

Demonstrators in lobby of Board of Education Building being carted off to jail, 10/11/1963

Box 3

Photo 016

Demonstrators being forcibly removed from Board of Education building, 10/11/1963

Box 3

Photo 017

CORE Sit-downers arrested, 10/14/1963

Box 3

Photo 018

CORE member being taken to jail from sit-in at the Board of Education building, 10/14/1963

Box 3

Photo 019

CORE Pickets and Sit-downers arrested at Board of Education, Builders Building, 10/14/1963

Box 3

Photo 020

Member of CORE arrested, Board of Education Building, 10/14/1963

Box 3

Photo 021

CORE members talking to Frank McKeng, Asst. to Supt. Willis, 12/6/1963

Box 3

Photo 022

Members who refused to leave building after Board of Education meeting, 12/9/1963

Box 3

Photo 023

CORE members picket City Hall, 7/24/1964

Box 3

Photo 024

Esther Newson and Gene Jones, CORE Members, 7/24/ 1964