James Forman

American civil rights leader

James Forman (October 4, 1928 – January 10, 2005) was a prominent African-American leader in the civil rights movement.

Black people ... are the most humane people within the United States. We have suffered and we understand suffering.


  • We reject the position of the United States government that intolerable racism in the United States is a purely domestic concern. We find this claim as hypocritical as the claim of the racist government of South Africa that its suppression of the human rights of 13,000,000 Africans is an internal matter, or a similar claim by the government of Portugal. Such claims are typical of colonial powers. We maintain that unwarranted and brutal suppression of black people in the United States is a matter of international concern.
    • "Statement to Afro-Asian Missions to the United Nations" (June 12, 1967)

The Black Manifesto (1969)

Page numbers refer to text as reproduced in Black Manifesto: Religion, Racism, and Reparations, edited by Robert S. Lecky and H. Elliott Wright (1969)
  • We should not think of going back to Africa today, for we are located in a strategic position. We live inside the United States, which is the most barbaric country in the world, and we have a chance to help bring this government down.
    • p. 116
  • Caution is fine, but no oppressed people ever gained their liberation until they were ready to fight, to use whatever means necessary, including the use of force and power of the gun to bring down the colonizer.
    • p. 116
  • Black people in this country must understand that we are the vanguard force. We shall liberate all the people in the United States, and we will be instrumental in the liberation of colored people the world around.
    • p. 116
  • Any class analysis of the United States shows very clearly that black people are the most oppressed group of people inside the United States. We have suffered the most from racism and exploitation, cultural degradation and lack of political power. It follows from the laws of revolution that the most oppressed will make the revolution.
    • p. 116
  • Black people ... are the most humane people within the United States. We have suffered and we understand suffering.
    • p. 116
  • White people in this country must be willing to accept black leadership, for that is the only protection that black people have to protect ourselves from racism rising again in this country. Racism in the United States is so pervasive in the mentality of whites that only an armed, well-disciplined, black-controlled Government can insure the stamping out of racism in this country.
    • p. 118
  • We must boldly go out and attack the white Western world at its power centers. The white Christian churches are another form of government in this country, and they are used by the government of this country to exploit the people of Latin America, Asia and Africa.
    • p. 125
  • We have always resisted attempts to make us slaves and now we must resist the attempts to make us capitalists.
  • The people must be educated to understand that any black man or Negro who is advocating a perpetuation of capitalism inside the United States is in fact seeking not only his ultimate destruction and death, but is contributing to the continuous exploitation of black people all around the world. For it is the power of the United States Government, this racist, imperialist government that is choking the life of all people around the world.

Quotes about James Forman

  • Going south gave northern Jewish women an opportunity to create existential meaning in their lives through moral action. Going south also provided adventure, "authentic" experience (in which theory and practice were linked), a sense of community, and escape from boring jobs, difficult families, and the prospect of marriage and life in suburbia. The movement offered these women the chance to learn from some of the most exciting activist/theorists in the country-people who worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) such as Ella Baker, Bob Moses, Fannie Lou Hamer, James Forman, Charles McDew, Stokely Carmichael, and a host of unsung local heroes.
    • Debra L. Schultz Going South: Jewish Women in the Civil Rights Movement (2002)
  • in one important way these young people are very much like the abolitionists of old: they have a healthy disrespect for respectability; they are not ashamed of being agitators and trouble-makers; they see it as the essence of democracy. In defense of William Lloyd Garrison, against the accusation that he was too harsh, a friend replied that the nation was in a sleep so deep "nothing but a rude and almost ruffian-like shake could rouse her." The same deliberate harshness lies behind the activities of James Forman, John Lewis, Bob Moses (activist), and other leaders of SNCC.
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