MIA : Library : James Forman


James Forman

1928 – 2005

James Forman was born on October 4, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois, but was raised by his grandmother on her farm in Marshall County, Mississippi. After completing graduate school at Boston University in 1961, he joined the newly formed Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and served as its executive secretary from 1961-to 1966.

Forman has been credited as being central to SNCC’s organizing success. As his politics moved leftward in the late-1960s, he promoted a short-lived effort to align SNCC with the Black Panther Party in late 1967 and early 1968. Later, after on-going conflicts over the future of SNCC, in the summer of 1969, the group decided to drop Nonviolent from its name, and instead became the Student National Coordinating Committee. Following the last staff meeting of the old SNCC, Forman resigned.

He moved to Detroit and began working with the League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW). In spring 1969, Forman was invited to speak at a Black Economic Development Conference (BEDC), organized by the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO). Forman and the League secured six League members on the BEDC steering committee and determined to present at the conference a black socialist agenda and demand for reparations. On May 4, 1969, speaking for the BEDC, Forman disrupted religious services at Riverside Church in New York to read The Black Manifesto. The Manifesto demanded money from white churches to support things like a Black publishing company, a Black workers’ strike fund and a land bank.

Forman become a member of the LRBW and was put on its central staff. Through money provided from BEDC, the League was able to establish a print shop (Black Star Press) and a book store (Black Star Book Store) and to make a movie, Finally Got the News. Forman’s rise within the LRBW led to a number of struggles over the direction of the organization and within a year, it would undergo a split. In 1970, the LRBW had created the Black Workers Congress to take the Detroit organization national. In June 1971 three members of the seven-member LRBW Central Committee – Ken Cockrel, Mike Hamlin, and John Watson – joined Forman in leaving the League to concentrate their efforts on the Black Worker’s Congress which went on to became a Marxist-Leninist organization and part of the emerging New Communist Movement.

Differences within the BWC, however, troubled the organization. Each of the three other Central Committee leaders eventually came to criticize Forman. Ultimately, Hamlin, as the BWC’s national chairman, expel Forman from the BWC on April 4, 1973.

Remaining politically active for the rest of his life, Forman also taught at American University in Washington, D.C. Forman died on January 10, 2005, of colon cancer, aged 76.


Text of a speech delivered at the staff retreat of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at Waveland, Mississippi, November 6, 1964

Transcription of an interview with Howard Zinn, November 12, 1965

Don't Shut Me Out! Some Thoughts on How to Move a Group of People from One Point to Another, or Some Basic Steps Toward Becoming a Good Political Organizer!

Statement to Afro-Asiam Missions to the United Nations on Events in Prattville, Alabama

An Urgent Message from New York SNCC

Speech Delivered by James Forman to the Black Caucus of the National Conference on New Politics (NCNP) Convention, September 2, 1967

Liberation Will Come from a Black Thing [speech given at the Western Regional Black Youth Conference, held in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 23, 1967]

Rock Bottom [1967]

1967: High Tide of Black Resistance

To the Students of Mexico [1968]

The New SNCC [1968]

The Concept of International Black Power [1968]

Speech at Malcolm X rally, City College, New York, February 24, 1969

Manifesto to the white Christian churches and Jewish synagogues in the United States of America and all other racist institutions [The “Black Manifesto”][1969]

CONTROL, CONFLICT AND CHANGE: The Underlying Concepts of the Black Manifesto

Twenty Enemy Forces Within a Revolutionary Organization that Must be Combatted [1971]

“Black America: Organize and Struggle” columns in the Guardian newspaper, February 20, 1974; April 3, 1974; June 12, 1974

Self-Determination and the African-American People [1981]



Last updated: 28 June 2018