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Robert Fay

James W. Ford was born in Pratt City, Alabama, on December 22, 1893. In 1913 he entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated in 1920 after serving in the army during World War I (1914–1918). Ford then moved to Chicago, where he became a postal worker and joined the Chicago Postal Workers Union and the American Negro Labor Congress, both affiliates of the Communist Party USA.

Ford joined the Communist Party in 1926 and rose rapidly through its ranks. In 1928 he was a delegate to the party's executive committee meeting in Moscow. In 1931 he became vice president of the party's League of Struggle for Negro Rights. He was the first African American on a presidential ticket, running for vice president with William Z. Foster in 1932. They received 102,991 votes.

In 1933 Ford was selected to head the party s ...

Article

Sandra Opdycke

labor leader and Communist Party official, was born James William Foursche in Pratt City, Alabama, the son of Lyman Foursche, a steelworker, and Nancy Reynolds, a domestic. Not long after his birth the family began to use a new surname when a white policeman questioning his father insisted that “Foursche” was too difficult to spell and changed the name to Ford. The most traumatic experience of Ford's boyhood was the lynching of his grandfather, a Georgia railroad worker. Ford started work at thirteen, joining his father at the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company, where he worked as a water boy, mechanic's helper, and then steam-hammer operator. Nevertheless, he managed to complete high school.

Entering Fisk University at the age of twenty, Ford excelled in his studies and in athletics, but when America entered World War I in 1917 he withdrew from college to serve in ...