Last Wednesday the civil rights movement lost one of its most influential members to colon cancer. James Forman died January 10th he is survived by his son Chaka Esmond Fanon Forman. James was born on Oct. 5, 1928, he spent the early years on a farm in Marshall County, Mississippi, with his grandmother. The at the age of six his parents moved him to Chicago. In 1957 James graduated from Englewood High School, after high school he entered the Air Force and fought in the Korean War. After the war Forman transferred to Roosevelt University in Chicago after his second college semester at the University of California. He also became very active in student politics on campus before his graduation in 1957. Forman went on to graduate studies at Boston University, then returned to Chicago. After college James went on to work at the Chicago Defender were he reported the injustices done to black people in the deep south.
In 1960 he learned of black farmers being evicted off their land by white landowners because they registered to vote. James left Chicago to join a program sponsored by the Congress for Racial Equality that provided help to the displaced farmers. In 1961 he joined The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC. One week after joining SNCC James was elected to its executive secretary after just one week with the organization. James did a great job at SNCC he was an excellent critical thinker as well as strategist that is why Julian Bond, chairman of the board of directors of the NAACP, said “that Forman the catalyst that turned SNCC into a fighting, militant organization.” (Pride) Forman was just influential as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. In 1963 Forman was the principal for the 1963 March on Washington and the Freedom Rides in which Blacks rode across the South to make sure buses were integrated as ordered by the courts. James also became one of the first major blacks leaders to demand reparations for slavery. He demanded 500 million dollars from white churches all across America for their involvement in the Atlantic Slave Trade. Even later in his life James was still active in the civil rights community. In 1982 and lobbying against the appointment of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork and the presidential campaign of former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke. He also traveled to Europe and Africa on behalf of the Black Panther Party and also planned a new march on Washington in 1982. Forman also served as president of the Unemployment and Poverty Action Council before returning to his academic studies, receiving a M.A. from Cornell University and his Ph.D from the Union Institute. Forman has also wrote many books on the civil rights movement such as “The Makings Of Black Revolutionaries” and “Sammy Young Jr.: The First Black Student to Die For The Black Liberation Movement”.
I feel that James Forman was one of the most influential black leaders in the history of the civil rights movement right up their with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, And Malcomb X. The things he has fought for and the freedoms he has obtained can be felt across the glob. His death can be felt throughout the civil rights community. I am sure that his guidance and wisdom will be sorely missed.
Pride, Karen “James Forman, Civil Rights Pioneer and Reporter Dies”
The Pittsburgh Courier