James Forman was raised in Chicago and Mississippi by his grandmother, mother and stepfather. He graduated from Englewood High School in 1947 and served in the U. S. Air Force during the Korean War. Forman attended the University of Southern California, but left after being accosted by police. He graduated from Roosevelt University in Chicago in 1956. Forman became involved in the Civil Rights Movement when he covered the Little Rock school desegregation crisis for the Chicago Defender and participated in a Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) project in Tennessee. He was the Executive Secretary for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1961 to 1966. After he left SNCC in 1966, he espoused Black Nationalist causes. He earned an M.A. from Cornell University in 1980 and then a Ph.D. from the Union of Experimental Colleges and Universities. Forman is the author of several books, including The Making of Black Revolutionaries. He died on January 10, 2005.
James Forman worked for CORE in Fayette County, Tennessee helping sharecroppers who had been evicted for attempting to register to vote. He joined SNCC in 1961 and was soon jailed for his participation in the Freedom Rides. He became the Executive Secretary of SNCC soon after and his leadership abilities earned him the respect of fellow SNCC members. Highlights of his tenure as Executive Secretary of SNCC include the Selma voting rights campaign, demonstrations in Montgomery, and training SNCC volunteers during Freedom Summer. He also participated in the planning of the March on Washington and helped John Lewis, the chairperson of SNCC at the time, write and rewrite his speech for this event.
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