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James Forman

Worked As Sncc Organizer

Forman's first involvement as a frontline organizer with SNCC began when he traveled to Albany, Georgia, on December 10, 1961. Arriving by "freedom train," Forman, along with six others, was arrested for attempting to challenge the segregated seating policy of Albany's Union Railway Terminal. When released from jail, Forman spoke out against the effort to invite Martin Luther King, Jr., to Albany. He warned that King's leadership would influence the local populace to throw its support behind one monolithic leader, thus causing the demise of Albany's student-led "people's movement." Mass media coverage of King's visit to Albany brought Forman national attention as one of the highest ranking and most militant members of the civil rights movement.

With funds raised through the Voter Registration Project, Forman worked with SNCC in 1962 to desegregate the cities of Cairo, Illinois, and Charleston, Missouri. Not long after, he traveled to Cleveland, Mississippi, to help organize a voter registration campaign. His incessant activity, however, resulted in severe health problems. In January of 1963, he fell ill with a bleeding ulcer and was hospitalized for several weeks. Soon afterward, he was arrested in Alabama for taking part in another march to Jackson, Mississippi.

After being released from jail once more, Forman drove to Birmingham, Alabama, where King and his supporters were in the midst of a massive civil rights campaign. Although Forman urged SNCC members to cooperate with King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), he advocated that demonstrators exhibit a heightened sense of militancy. He criticized King for remaining behind the scenes, while students faced the wrath of police dogs, fire hoses, and armed police officers. Forman viewed King's negotiations with the city of Birmingham as a sell-out between the SCLC and then-Attorney General Bobby Kennedy. "People had become too militant for the government's liking and Dr. King's image," wrote Forman in The Making of Black Revolutionaries. "I felt the masses of young people who had been the backbone of the protest had been cheated once more. The mighty leader had proven to have feet of clay."

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Trevor Edwards Biography - Accepted Wisdom from His Mother to Francisco Franco (1892–1975) BiographyJames Forman Biography - Awakened To Racial Discrimination, Dedicated Life To Fighting Oppression, Worked As Sncc Organizer, Traveled To Washington And Selma - Selected writings