Big Six (civil rights)

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The Big Six refer to some of the prominent chairmen, presidents, and leaders of six of the civil rights organizations active during the height of the African-American Civil Rights Movement who were instrumental in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

They include:[1][2]

  • James Farmer (January 12, 1920 – July 9, 1999): In 1942 Farmer founded the Congress of Racial Equality or CORE, a pacifist organization dedicated to achieving racial harmony and equality through nonviolence, and stayed active in the Civil Rights Movement through the 1950s and 1960s. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, shortly before his death in 1999.

In James Farmer's autobiography, Lay Bare the Heart, he identified the term "Big Six" as having originated with the founding of the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership. Farmer did not include A. Philip Randolph in his listing of the "Big Six", instead listing Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women as the sixth member of the group. Farmer also noted that the press often referred to the group as the "Big Four", excluding Height and John Lewis; Farmer attributed their omission to sexism and age bias, respectively.[3]

Human rights activist Malcolm X, who may have coined the term "The Big Six", said: "...the Negro civil rights leaders have now been permanently named the Big Six (because of their participation in the Big Fix?)."[4]

Patrick Henry Bass, journalist and historian of the March on Washington, described the rise of these leaders to celebrity: "Increasingly, these six powerful men lived in two worlds: the political and the personal, one white, in which they were still strangers but becoming increasingly familiar with its insider/outsider rules; the other, black, where they were treated as extended members of the family."[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Big Six: John Lewis and His Contemporaries". Howard.edu. Retrieved February 5, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Notable Achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr". Wndu.com. Retrieved February 5, 2013. 
  3. ^ Farmer, James. Lay Bare the Heart. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press. p. 215. ISBN 9780875651880. Retrieved September 22, 2014. 
  4. ^ Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare, James H. Cone, Orbis Books, NY, 1991, p. 118. ISBN 0-88344-721-5.
  5. ^ Patrick Henry Bass, Like a Mighty Stream: The March on Washington, August 28, 1963; Philadelphia: Running Press, 2002; ISBN 0-7624-1292-5; p. 85.