James Forman was born in Chicago on 4th October, 1928. After high school he entered the United States Airforce and fought in the Korean War. When he returned to the United States he studied at Roosevelt University, graduating in 1957.
Forman worked for the Chicago Defender and reported on the civil rightsstruggle in the Deep South. He joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and in 1961 was appointed as its executive secretary. In this post Forman controversially began to demand that the African American people should be given $500 million in reparations for the injustices of slavery, racism and capitalism.
Forman served as president of the Unemployment and Poverty Action Council (UPAC) before returning to his academic studies, receiving a M.A. from Cornell University (1980) and his Ph.D from the Union Institute (1981). Foreman has also written several books including Sammy Young Jr.: The First Black College Student to Die in the Black Liberation Movement (1968), The Political Thought of James Forman (1970), The Makings of Black Revolutionaries (1972) and Self-Determination (1985).