Philip S. Foner

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Philip Sheldon Foner (December 14, 1910 – December 13, 1994) was an American Marxist labor historian and teacher. Foner was a prolific author and editor of more than 100 books, and wrote extensively on what were at the time academically unpopular themes, such as the role of radicals, blacks, and women in American history. In 1941, Foner became a public figure when he was stripped of his teaching position at City College of New York over his political views. Foner is best remembered for his massive 10-volume History of the Labor Movement in the United States, published between 1947 and 1994, and for the 5-volume collection The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass. His scholarship, publications and political affiliations were on the far left. He denied being a member of the Communist Party but he lost an academic position after accusations of being a Communist. His nephew Eric Foner refers to "Communist-oriented historians like Herbert Aptheker and my uncle Philip Foner."[1]

Biography[edit]

Early years[edit]

Foner was born in 1910 in the Lower East Side of New York City.[2] His parents were emigrants from the Russian empire. Foner grew up in Brooklyn, and graduated from Eastern District High School.[2]

Philip Foner's three brothers were also important figures in the American Left. Jack D. Foner (1910–1999) was also a professional historian (and was the father of historian Eric Foner). Two other brothers were leading unionists: Moe Foner was a leader in 1199, and was particularly notable for running the union's cultural programs. Henry Foner led the Furriers' Union.

Foner obtained his Bachelor's degree from the City College of New York (CCNY) in 1932, and his Master's degree from Columbia University in 1933. In 1941, he received his Ph.D. from Columbia.

Foner married Roslyn Held in 1939. The pair had two children, Elizabeth and Laura.

Academic career[edit]

Foner became an instructor of history at City College of New York in 1933, the same year in which he obtained his Master's degree.[2] He taught there through 1941, when his first book was published, Business and Slavery: The New York Merchants and the Irrepressible Conflict.[3]

Foner was one of 26 faculty and staff members of City College who forced from their jobs by the end of 1942 as a result of an investigation of communist influences in higher education by the New York State Legislature's Rapp-Coudert Committee, officially known as the Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate the Educational System of the State of New York, established in the spring of 1940.[4] Foner gave testimony at the investigative hearings in April 1941, during which he denied being a member of the Communist Party. The next month he was brought up on charges by the Board of Higher Education's Conduct Committee and, in August, the Board held a trial in his case. The charges concerned his alleged Communist Party membership and related activities, including his participation in the publication of The Teacher-Worker, a newsletter of a Communist Party unit active at City College; Foner was also charged with having given false testimony at the hearing. The trial committee made a report recommending his dismissal in November 1941.[5]

Foner's three brothers — his twin Jack, a professor of history at CCNY; Moe, a worker in the CCNY registrar's office; and Henry, a substitute teacher in the New York City public schools — were also embroiled in the controversy and were terminated from their jobs as well.[2]

After his dismissal from City College, Foner became a principal and chief editor for Citadel Press, based in New York City.[2]

In 1947, there appeared the first volume of what would become Foner's magnum opus, A History of the Labor Movement of the United States, released by International Publishers, a publisher very close to the Communist Party USA. Writing as a Marxist, Foner emphasized the role of the working class and their allies in a class struggle dating back to the earliest days of the American republic, thereby presenting what one historian has called "a formidible challenge to the orthodox John R. Commons interpretation of labor history."[3] Further volumes would appear in the series throughout Foner's life, with a tenth and final installment, published shortly before the historian's death, taking the story to the eve of the Great Depression.

Two years later, the first installment of Foner's other multi-volume work, The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, saw print, also through the auspices of International Publishers in New York City. Ultimately five volumes of this work would appear, published between 1949 and 1952.

In 1967, Foner was once again readmitted to the halls of academia when he was hired as a history professor at Lincoln University, a historically black university located near Oxford, Pennsylvania. Foner retained this post until his retirement in 1979.[2]

Following his retirement, Foner continued to publish books at a frenetic pace, usually in the role of co-author of document collections in association with a younger scholar.

In 1979, nearly three decades after the mass firings at City College, the New York State Board of Higher Education apologized to the Rapp-Coudert victims, terming the conduct of the Rapp-Coudert Committee "an egregious violation of academic freedom."[6]

Foner also became a professor of history at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey in 1981.

Following his wife Roslyn's death, Foner married again in 1988, with the second union ending in divorce in 1991.

Accusations of plagiarism[edit]

Foner's work, always politically controversial, has not been without even deeper criticism. In 1971, a 30-page article in the respected academic journal Labor History extensively documented the way that Foner plagiarized material from an unpublished master's thesis by James O. Morris in his 1965 book, The Case of Joe Hill.[7] Morris charged that "About one quarter of the Foner text is a verbatim or nearly verbatim reproduction" of his manuscript and that edited quotations from other sources had been exactly reproduced, including ellipses.[8]

Further charges were levied in May 2003, when labor historian Mel Dubofsky accused Foner of having "borrowed wholesale from my then unpublished dissertation" on the Industrial Workers of the World for use in Volume 4 of his History of the Labor Movement in the United States.[9] Dubofsky charged that Foner extracted large chunks of this dissertation "without attribution or inverted commas."[9] Dubofsky further alleged that Foner had engaged in a similar pattern of behavior with the unpublished work of other young scholars "too numerous to mention."[9]

Another important American scholar, John Earl Haynes, has asserted a pattern of shoddy accuracy by Foner in the footnoting of some of his work.[10]

Death and legacy[edit]

Philip Foner died the day before his 84th birthday, December 13, 1994.

Works[edit]

Books written[edit]

  • Business and Slavery: The New York Merchants and the Irrepressible Conflict. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1941.
  • Morale Education in the American Army: War for Independence, War of 1812, Civil War. New York: International Publishers, 1944.
  • The Jews in American History, 1654-1865. New York: International Publishers, 1945.
  • Jack London: American Rebel:A Collection of his Social Writings, Together with an Extensive Study of the Man and his Times New York: The Citadel Press, 1947.
  • History of the Labor Movement in the United States. In 10 volumes, 1947-1994.
    • Vol. 1: From Colonial Times to the Founding of the American Federation of Labor. New York: International Publishers, 1947.
    • Vol. 2: From the Founding of the American Federation of Labor to the Emergence of American Imperialism. New York: International Publishers, 1955.
    • Vol. 3: The Policies and Practices of the American Federation of Labor, 1900-1909. New York: International Publishers, 1964.
    • Vol. 4: Industrial Workers of the World. New York: International Publishers, 1965.
    • Vol. 5: The AFL in the Progressive Era, 1910-1915. New York: International Publishers, 1980.
    • Vol. 6: On the Eve of America's Entrance into World War I, 1915-1916. New York: International Publishers, 1982.
    • Vol. 7: Labor and World War I, 1914-1918. New York: International Publishers, 1987.
    • Vol. 8: Postwar Struggles, 1918-1920. New York: International Publishers, 1988.
    • Vol. 9: The T.U.E.L. to the End of the Gompers Era. New York: International Publishers, 1991.
    • Vol. 10: The T.U.E.L., 1925-1929. New York: International Publishers, 1994.
  • The Fur and Leather Workers Union: A Story of Dramatic Struggles and Achievements. Newark, NJ: Nordan Press, 1950.
  • A History of Cuba and its Relations with the United States. In 2 volumes, 1962-1963.
    • Volume 1, 1492-1845: From the Conquest of Cuba to La Escalera. New York: International Publishers, 1962.
    • Volume 2, 1845-1895: From the Era of Annexationism to the Outbreak of the Second War for Independence. New York: International Publishers, 1963.
  • Frederick Douglass: A Biography. New York: Citadel Press, 1964.
  • The Case of Joe Hill. New York: International Publishers, 1965.
  • The Bolshevik Revolution: Its Impact on American Radicals, Liberals, and Labor. New York: International Publishers, 1967.
  • W.E.B. DuBois Speaks: Speeches and Addresses, 1890-1919. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970.
  • W.E.B. DuBois Speaks: Speeches and Addresses, 1920-1963. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970.
  • American Labor and the Indochina War: The Growth of Union Opposition. New York: International Publishers, 1971.
  • The Spanish-Cuban-American War and the Birth of American Imperialism, 1895-1902. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972.
  • Organized Labor and the Black Worker, 1619-1973. New York: Praeger, 1974.
  • American Labor Songs of the Nineteenth Century. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975.
  • History of Black Americans. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975.
  • Labor and the American Revolution. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1976.
  • Blacks in the American Revolution. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1976.
  • The Great Labor Uprising of 1877. New York: Monad Press, 1977.
  • American Socialism and Black Americans: From the Age of Jackson to World War II. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1977.
  • Antonio Maceo: The "Bronze Titan" of Cuba's Struggle for Independence. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977.
  • Essays in Afro-American History. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978.
  • Women and the American Labor Movement: From Colonial Times to the Eve of World War I. New York: The Free Press, 1979.
  • Women and the American Labor Movement: From World War I to the Present. New York: The Free Press, 1980.
  • British Labor and the American Civil War. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1981.
  • Women and the American Labor Movement: From the First Trade Unions to the Present. New York: The Free Press, 1982.
  • Three Who Dared: Prudence Crandall, Margaret Douglass, Myrtilla Miner: Champions of Antebellum Black Education. With Josephine F. Pacheco. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1984.
  • First Facts of American Labor: A Comprehensive Collection of Labor Firsts in the United States. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1984.
  • The Other America: Art and the Labour Movement in the United States. With Reinhard Schultz. West Nyack, NY: Journeyman Press, 1985.
  • Literary Anti-imperialists. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1986.
  • May Day: A Short History of the International Workers' Holiday, 1886-1986. New York: International Publishers, 1986.
  • U.S. Labor Movement and Latin America: A History of Workers' Response to Intervention. South Hadley, MA: Bergin and Garvey, 1988.
  • U.S. Labor and the Viet-Nam War. New York: International Publishers, 1989.

Books edited[edit]

  • Basic Writings of Thomas Jefferson. New York : Willey Book Co., 1944.
  • George Washington: Selections from his Writings. New York: International Publishers, 1944.
  • Abraham Lincoln: Selections from his Writings. New York: International Publishers, 1944.
  • The Life and Major Writings of Thomas Paine. New York: Citadel Press, 1945.
  • The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine. New York: Citadel Press, 1945.
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Selections from his Writings. New York: International Publishers, 1947.
  • The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass. In 5 volumes. New York: International Publishers, 1950-1955. Supplementary volume, 1975.
  • The Letters of Joe Hill. New York: Oak Publications, 1965.
  • Helen Keller, Her Socialist Years: Writings and Speeches. New York: International Publishers, 1967.
  • The Autobiographies of the Haymarket Martyrs. New York, AIMS/Humanities Press, 1969.
  • The Black Panthers Speak. New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1970.
  • The Voice of Black America: Major Speeches by Negroes in the United States, 1797-1971. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972.
  • Mark Twain: Social Critic. New York: International Publishers, 1972.
  • When Karl Marx Died: Comments in 1883. New York: International Publishers, 1973.
  • Inside the Monster: Writings on the United States and American Imperialism. By José Marti. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975.
  • The Voice of Black America: Major Speeches by Negroes in the United States, 1797-1900. New York: Capricorn Books, 1975.
  • We, the Other People: Alternative Declarations of Independence by Labor Groups, Farmers, Woman's Rights Advocates, Socialists, and Blacks, 1829-1975. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976.
  • The Democratic-Republican Societies, 1790-1800: A Documentary Sourcebook of Constitutions, Declarations, Addresses, Resolutions, and Toasts. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1976.
  • Frederick Douglass on Women's Rights. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1976.
  • The Formation of the Workingmen's Party of the United States: Proceedings of the Union Congress, Held at Philadelphia, July 19-22, 1876. New York: American Institute for Marxist Studies, 1976.
  • Our America: Writings on Latin America and the Struggle for Cuban Independence. By José Marti. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977.
  • The Factory Girls: A Collection of Writings on Life and Struggles in the New England Factories of the 1840s. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977.
  • Friedrich A. Sorge's Labor Movement in the United States: A History of the American Working Class from Colonial Times to 1890. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1977.
  • Our America: Writings on Latin America and the Struggle for Cuban Independence. By José Marti. New York : Monthly Review Press, 1977.
  • Paul Robeson Speaks: Writings, Speeches, Interviews, 1918-1974. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1978.
  • Karl Liebknecht and the United States. Chicago: Greenleaf Press, 1978.
  • The Black Worker: A Documentary History from Colonial Times to the Present. In 8 volumes. 1978-1984.
    • Volume 1: The Black Worker to 1869. With Ronald L. Lewis. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978.
    • Volume 2: The Black Worker During the Era of the National Labor Union. With Ronald L. Lewis. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978.
    • Volume 3: The Black Worker During the Era of the Knights of Labor. With Ronald L. Lewis. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978.
    • Volume 4: The Black Worker During the Era of the American Federation of Labor and the Railroad Brotherhoods. With Ronald L. Lewis. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1979.
    • Volume 5: The Black Worker from 1900 to 1919. With Ronald L. Lewis. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980.
    • Volume 6: The Black Worker: The Era of Post-War Prosperity and the Great Depression, 1920-1936. With Ronald L. Lewis. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981.
    • Volume 7: The Black Worker from the Founding of the CIO to the AFL-CIO merger, 1936-1955. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983.
    • Volume 8: The Black Worker Since the AFL-CIO Merger, 1955-1980. With Ronald L. Lewis and Robert Cvornyek. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984.
  • On Education: Articles on Educational Theory and Pedagogy, and Writings for Children from the Age of Gold. By José Marti. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979.
  • Proceedings of the Black State Conventions, 1840-1865: Volume 1: New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio.. With George E. Walker. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1979.
  • Proceedings of the Black State Conventions: Volume 2: New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts, California, New England, Kansas, Louisiana, Virginia, Missouri, South Carolina. With George E. Walker. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980.
  • Fellow Workers and Friends: IWW Free Speech Fights as Told by Participants. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981.
  • José Martí, Major Poems: A Bilingual Edition. With Elinor Randall. New York: Holmes and Meier Publishers, 1982.
  • Kate Richards O'Hare: Selected Writings and Speeches. With Sally M. Miller. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982.
  • Mother Jones Speaks: Collected Writings and Speeches. New York : Monad Press, 1983.
  • Black Socialist Preacher: The Teachings of Reverend George Washington Woodbey and his Disciple, Reverend G.W. Slater, Jr. Foreword by Ronald V. Dellums. San Francisco: Synthesis Publications, 1983.
  • We Dare be Free: A History of the Labor Movement in the US from Colonial Times through World War I. New York : Joint Board Fur, Leather & Machine Workers Union, Local 1-FLM, 1983.
  • Letters to the Chicago Workingman's Advocate, November 26, 1870-December 2, 1871. By Wilhelm Liebknecht. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1983.
  • History of Black Americans: From the Compromise of 1850 to the end of the Civil War. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983.
  • Clara Zetkin: Selected Writings. New York: International Publishers, 1984.
  • The Anti-Imperialist Reader: A Documentary History of Anti-Imperialism in the United States. With Richard C. Winchester. In 2 volumes. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1984.
  • The Workingmen's Party of the United States: A History of the First Marxist Party in the Americas. Minneapolis: MEP Publications, 1984.
  • Proceedings of the Black National and States Conventions, 1865-1900. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986.
  • Militarism and Organized Labor, 1900-1914. Minneapolis: MEP Publications, 1987.
  • American Communism and Black Americans: A Documentary History, 1919-1929. With James S. Allen. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987.
  • Black Workers: A Documentary History from Colonial Times to the Present. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988.
  • Political Parties and Elections in the United States. By José Marti. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989.
  • Black Workers: A Documentary History from Colonial Times to the Present. With Ronald L. Lewis. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989.
  • American Communism and Black Americans: A Documentary History, 1930-1934. With Herbert Shapiro. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991.
  • William Heighton: Pioneer Labor Leader of Jacksonian Philadelphia: With Selections from Heighton's Writings and Speeches. New York: International Publishers, 1991.
  • Racism, Dissent, and Asian Americans from 1850 to the Present: A Documentary History. With Daniel Rosenberg. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.
  • Northern Labor and Antislavery: A Documentary History. With Herbert Shapiro. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.
  • Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1997.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Eric Foner (2003). Who Owns History?: Rethinking the Past in a Changing World. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Lawrence Van Gelder, "Philip S. Foner, Labor Historian and Professor, 84." New York Times, December 15, 1994, pg. B20.
  3. ^ a b Herbert Shapiro, "Philip Sheldon Foner (b. 1910)," in Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Georgakas (eds.), Encyclopedia of the American Left. First edition. New York: Garland Publishing Co., 1990; pp. 232-233.
  4. ^ Stephen Leberstein, "Purging the Profs: The Rapp Coudert Committee in New York, 1940-1942," in Michael E. Brown et al. (eds.), New Studies in the Politics and Culture of U.S. Communism. New York: Monthly Review Press, c1993. 105.
  5. ^ The trial transcript and other trial documents are held in the Records of the Board of Higher Education of the City of New York; RG 1368; YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York, N.Y.
  6. ^ "Jack D. Foner," Perspectives, American Historical Society, April 2000.
  7. ^ Labor History, vol. 12, no. 1 (Winter 1971), pp. 81-114.
  8. ^ Scott McLemee, "Seeing Red: Philip Foner influenced a generation of young labor historians, but critics call him a plagiarist who helped himself to their research." Chronicle of Higher Education. vol. 49, no. 42 (June 27, 2003), pg. A11.
  9. ^ a b c Melvyn Dubofsky in "Was Foner Guilty of Plagiarism?" History News Network, George Mason University, June 2, 2003. Retrieved May 31, 2010.
  10. ^ John Earl Haynes in "Was Foner Guilty of Plagiarism?" History News Network, George Mason University, June 2, 2003. Retrieved May 31, 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • Kenneth C. Crowe, "Philip Foner, Leading Labor Historian, Dies." Newsday, December 15, 1994, pg. A64.