"Forman was volatile and uncompromising, an angry young man. His head had been clubbed many times on the front lines in Dixie. He was impatient with Urban League and NAACP types; he was nervous and perhaps a trifle battle-fatigued." ~ James Farmer, Lay Bare the Heart
James Forman was born October 4, 1928 in Chicago, spending time when he was not in school with his grandparents in Marshall County, Mississippi. He graduated with honors from Englewood High School in 1947 and after a semester at a community college joined the Air Force, serving in Okinawa. He then enrolled at the University of Southern California but after being arrested outside the campus library on suspicion of robbery and being beaten while in custody he returned to Chicago. In 1954 he enrolled in Chicago's Roosevelt University, graduating in three years. He began attending graduate school at Boston University, but after being inspired by the court-ordered integration of Central High acquired press credentials from the Chicago Defender in 1958 and went to Little Rock, where as his obituary in the Washington Post stated, he "filed a few stories, worked on a social-protest novel and looked for opportunities to organize mass protests in the South."
Such an opportunity came through the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and by 1961 Forman had been named Executive Secretary of SNCC under Chairman John Lewis. His skill at organizing and directing voter registration volunteers, as well as handling administrative details, publicity, and fundraising, were what Eleanor Holmes Norton called an "organizational miracle in holding together a loose band of nonviolent revolutionaries who simply wanted to act together to eliminate racial discrimination and terror." SNCC became one of the "Big Five" civil rights groups, along with the older National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Urban League, Congress of Racial Equality, and Southern Christian Leadership Convention. Forman took part in organizing the August 1963 March on Washington and was responsible for rewriting Lewis's speech to make it less inflammatory. The next year he led a group of 10 SNCC members in a visit to Guinea.
As SNCC became more militant, in 1966 Lewis and Forman were replaced in office by Stokely Carmichael and Ruby Doris Robinson. Forman helped negotiate the brief merger between SNCC and the Black Panther Party, and for a time took part in Panther leadership, serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director of Political Education. In 1969 he participated in the Black Economic Development Conference in Detroit, culminating in the "Black Manifesto" calling for $500,000,000 in reparations.
Cornell University, and in 1982 a PhD from the Institute for Policy Studies Union of Experimental Colleges and Universities. He taught at American University and campaigned for statehood for the District of Columbia. He died January 10, 2005 at the age of 76. His son, James Forman, Jr is a professor at the Yale Law School.
LOCAL UNIT INFORMATION and
BLACK HISTORY BLOG FEATURING EVENTS AND PEOPLE CONNECTED TO TEXAS OR NAACP.
SOME DAYS ARE DATE-SPECIFIC, SO CHECK THE BIRTHDAYS!
"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." ~ James Baldwin
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.