January 17, 2005
King and Forman
Last week brought the sad news that James Forman died at age 76. James headed the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee from 1961 through 1966. I met him at my first SNCC meeting in September 1961 and sat-in with him across the street in Jackson, Mississippi. SNCC was filled with young, militant, and dedicated civil rights workers, black and white, who risked their lives for the right to vote, eat at restaurants, stay at motels.
Forman was the strategist and the inspiration along with Bob Moses, Diane Nash, and many others. He was, according to the NYT obit, a student of the writings of W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington growing up in his native Chicago. It seems odd today, but James and most SNCC leaders worried that Dr. King would become a monolithic leader of the movement and young kids in SNCC were in a hurry to end segregation. James said Dr. King was moving too slowly and had "feet of clay." Little did we know that King would bring the black middle-class into the movement and ultimately achieve success.
But as we celebrate Dr. King's day, let us not forget that no man or woman can create and sustain a movement. Thousands like James Forman made it possible.
Well done, James Forman.
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