Forman, James 1928–2005

views updated

Forman, James 1928–2005


Born October 4, 1928, in Chicago, IL; died January 10, 2005, in Washington, DC, from colon cancer; son of Jackson Forman (a jitney driver) and Octavia Rufus; married Mary Forman (divorced); married Mildred Thompson (divorced); married Constan- cia Ramilly (divorced); children: Chaka (son), James. Ethnicity: African American. Education: Attended Wilson Junior College and the University of Southern California; Roosevelt University, B.A., 1957; attended African Research and Studies Program, Boston University, 1958, and Chicago Teachers College, 1959-60; Cornell University, M.A., 1980; Union of Experimental Colleges and Universities with the Institute for Policy Studies, Ph.D., 1985.


Writer, educator, and civil rights activist. Chicago Defender, Chicago, IL, reporter, 1958-59, 1960; Chicago public schools, teacher, 1960; Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), executive secretary, 1961-66, SNCC, administrator of the national office, Atlanta, GA, 1967; SNCC, director of International Affairs Commission, New York, NY, 1967; Black Panther Party, minister of foreign affairs, 1968; Unemployment and Poverty Action Committee, Washington, DC, president, mid-1970s-1980s; Washington Times, founder, 1981; Black American News Service, founder, early 1980s. Military service: U.S. Air Force, 1947-51; served in the Korean War.


Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (executive secretary, 1961-66; director of Internal Affairs Commission, 1967), Black Panther Party.


Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom Award, the National Conference of Black Mayors, 1990.


La Libération viendra d'une chose noire, F. Maspero (Paris, France), 1968.

Law and Disorder, T. Nelson (New York, NY), 1972.

Self-Determination and the African-American People, Open Hand Publishing (Seattle, WA), 1981, published as Self-Determination: An Examination of the Question and Its Application to the African-American People, 1984.

The Making of Black Revolutionaries, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1985, reprinted, University of Washington Press (Seattle, WA), 1997.

Sammy Younge, Jr.: The First Black College Student to Die in the Black Liberation Movement, Open Hand Publishing (Washington, DC), 1986.

High Tide of Black Resistance and Other Political and Literary Writings, Open Hand Publishing (Seattle, WA), 1994.


James Forman was a writer, educator, and civil rights activist. As a reporter for the Chicago Defender, the prominent black newspaper of the time, he traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1958 to cover the desegregation of Central High School. He later wrote articles for the newspaper about black tenant farmers being thrown off the land in Fayetteville, Tennessee, because they dared to participate in a local voter registration, and he represented the farmers to the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He also served as a teacher in the Chicago school system. However, Forman is best known for his participation in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and his association with the Black Panther Party. In 1969, he offered African Americans a "Black Manifesto," which called upon the government and the public to offer reparations to African Americans for years of oppression and discrimination. He worked as SNCC executive secretary from 1961 to 1966, and was a key participant in the organization of the major civil rights rallies of the decade. He went on to write several books on civil rights, including Sammy Younge, Jr.: The First Black College Student to Die in the Black Liberation Movement and High Tide of Black Resistance and Other Political & Literary Writings, and remained an active voice in the fight for civil rights until his death. Forman passed away in 2005, from colon cancer. In an obituary for Jet, one writer noted: "Throughout his civil rights career, Forman stayed in the highest leadership ranks of the Civil Rights Movement where his ideas quickly were formulated into policy."



African American Review, summer, 1996, review of High Tide of Black Resistance and Other Political and Literary Writings.

Biography Today, April, 2005, "James Forman, 1928-2005: American Civil Rights Activist," p. 41.

Emerge, April, 1996, Victoria Valentine, "In the Fore of the Movement.," p. 24.

Library Journal, December, 1997, review of The Making of Black Revolutionaries, p. 160.

Morning Edition, January 12, 2005, "Profile: Career of Civil Rights Activist James Forman, Who Died This Week at Age 76."

New York Times Book Review, July 14, 1985, review of The Making of Black Revolutionaries, p. 40.

NPR Special Coverage, January 12, 2005, "Interview: Barbara Ransby Looks Back on the Life of James Forman."

Publishers Weekly, August 9, 1985, review of The Making of Black Revolutionaries, p. 73.


Stanford University Web site, (October 3, 2007), Clayborne Carson and Penny A. Russell, profile of James Forman.



Black Scholar, March 22, 2005, "James Forman."

Jet, January 31, 2005, "James Forman, 76, Key Activist among Youth during Civil Rights Movement in '60s Dies."

New York Times, January 12, 2005, Martin Douglas, "James Forman Dies at 76; Was Pioneer in Civil Rights," p. A18.

Sojourners Magazine, April 1, 2005, "Honoring the Elders."

UPI NewsTrack, January 12, 2005, "Rights Activist James Forman Dead at 76."


Washington Post Online, (January 11, 2005), Joe Holley, "Civil Rights Leader James Foreman Dies."