James Farmer Scholars Program

Photo - Bust of James Farmer


Portrait - James Farmer

Beginning June 2021, the James Farmer Scholars Program will no longer be administered by the University of Mary Washington. The reconstructed program will consist of each locality overseeing all aspects of the program for their location. Re-imaging the program in this way will allow each participating county to tailor the program to meet the needs of the students in their area. Additional details regarding these changes will be announced as they become available.



The James Farmer Scholars Program began in 1987, inspired by Mary Washington College administrators who were frustrated by the small number of African-American students applying for enrollment. Designed to provide encouragement and access to students who may not have considered college as a part of their future, the Program is named after the late Dr. James Farmer. Dr. Farmer was civil rights activist, and former professor of History at Mary Washington College, a man who helped pave the roads that our African American children walk on toward new futures.

The purpose of the Program is to assist students, beginning in the seventh grade, to prepare, to enroll in and attend any college of their choice upon graduation from high school. Through academic enrichment, tutoring, extra-curricular activities and counseling, students are encouraged to fulfill their potential. Twelve students from each of four local counties, Caroline, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania and Westmoreland, are nominated and selected to participate in the program. Scholars are selected on the basis of their academic potential, test scores, recommendations and written essays.

Students meet one Saturday a month during the academic calendar year, and for one week during the summer. The Program focuses on teaching students: about their heritage, preparation for Virginia Standards of Learning exams, basic computer skills, writing and grade-appropriate math skills. In addition, Scholars attend special lectures on various topics from college faculty and invited guests. Scholars are also are encouraged to participate in community service work within their locality.

The James Farmer Scholars Program has provided a pathway for numerous Scholars to enroll, attend and graduate from their selected colleges, including the University of Mary Washington. Through the support and encouragement of the Program, our Scholars grow to understand that education, determination and the love of family and friends will take them a long way.