The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was one of the largest and most influential organizations of the Black freedom movement in the United States.
The pioneers of non-violent direct action of the civil rights movement, CORE in many ways also represents the roots of Black Power. It influenced all the other social protest groups that followed, from the SCLC to SNCC, the Black Panthers, Young Lords, even Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. CORE’s tactics were borrowed by these groups and many others and made their own. Its influence can even be seen in the various Occupy Wall Street protests here, specifically the group that has organized around the ‘Stop and Frisk’ issue (see: Jamel Mims, Noche Diaz, Christina Gonzalez, 'that brother John', peace to Ritchie).
The majority of its membership were in the North but ironically CORE is known mostly for its work down south. CORE was especially strong here in New York City (NYC) and the NYC metropolitan area. Not only was its national office headquartered here, by 1964, there were at least 20 different chapters in the NYC metropolitan area, far more so than other city. According to a New York Times poll that same year, it was voted one of the leading ‘Negro action’ groups in NYC, second only to the much larger National Association of Colored People (NAACP).
Locally, its emphasis on community control and protest demonstrations were in many ways responsible for the decentralization of the NYC public school system. Many of those who participated in its educational, employment and housing projects after leaving CORE became local leaders as politicians, union heads and directors of municipal agencies. It also initiated the rent strike movement of the mid to late 1960's in which thousands of New Yorkers simply refused to pay their rent in order to protest slum conditions.
This history demonstrates that the civil rights movement was not just something exclusive to the south. CORE out of all the major civil rights organizations has been understudied in general, especially when it comes to its shift to Black nationalism. The history of CORE in NYC allows for a discussion on both these points.
What were the different chapters in NYC? Who were the leaders, who were the members, what were the main campaigns? How did their work affect the city and themselves in the long term? What were the consequences, what were the rewards?
My research makes use of articles, CORE documents, film footage of CORE demonstrations’ and interviews, different books on the movement(s) and the scholarship of other CORE researchers. I have also done several oral history interviews with former members of CORE.
Message to the Grassroots (aka automatic for the people)
This website is a continuation of my first, harlemcore.com, which began as a project while a grad student. I could not understand the significance and legacy of CORE here until I looked at CORE from a citywide perspective.
With this website, I'm trying to reconstruct the history of CORE here in NYC. I'm also hoping to encourage scholarship on CORE. Hopefully someone will be inspired to pick up where I left off. If you are a graduate student and looking for a topic, an M.A. if not a PhD thesis could easily be done on the history of Downtown CORE, East River CORE, Bronx and/or Queens CORE. A biography of Jim Peck is long overdue. A paper on the women leaders of CORE could help shed light on the issue of women leaders of the movement and help dismiss the myth that it was only the men who ran things. How about something on the effect of CORE on NYC’s public school system?
Since CORE was always a federation of local groups which differences in terms of tactics and concerns, should future CORE research concentrate on the effect CORE had at the local level as opposed to the national (shout out to the Seattle CORE group and all their work)?
To the O.G. activists from back in the day - please don’t archive your CORE research materials at Wisconsin State University. Make it easier for students and researchers. Why not leave it somewhere local to your respective chapter? Please leave it somewhere that will be free to access. For example, the New York and Brooklyn Historical Societies charge from $4-6 dollars to access whatever CORE archival materials they house. This discourages students in particular.
The student’s first stop is going to be the internet, not the library.
About the 'Exhibit' Section
About the author: I am currently a grad student at at NYU finishing my M.A. The goal is to get a PhD. I'm a former McNair Scholar and CUNY Pipeline Fellow. My B.A. is in Media from Hunter College. My video and other multi-media work can be seen here.
contact - firstname.lastname@example.org
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Peace - EJ