Philip S. Foner

Philip Sheldon Foner (December 14, 1910 – December 13, 1994) was an American labor historian and teacher. Foner was a prolific author and editor of more than 100 books. He is considered a pioneer in his extensive works on the role of radicals, blacks, and women in American labor and political history, which were generally neglected in mainstream academia at the time. A Marxist thinker, he influenced more than a generation of scholars, inspiring some of the work published by younger academics from the 1970s on. In 1941, Foner became a public figure as one among 26 persons fired from teaching and staff positions at City College of New York for political views, following an investigation of communist influence in education by a state legislative committee, known as the Rapp-Coudert Committee.

Foner is best remembered for his 10-volume ''History of the Labor Movement in the United States,'' published between 1947 and 1994. He also edited the 5-volume collection ''The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass,'' and wrote a biography of the abolitionist leader. His works ''Organized Labor and the Black Worker,'' (1974 and 1982 editions) and the two-volume ''Women in the American Labor Movement'' (1979 and 1980) also broke new ground in history. For his ''American Labor Songs of the Nineteenth Century'' (1975), Foner received the Deems Taylor Award, presented by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

His scholarship, publications and political affiliations were considered to be on the far left. In 1979, the New York State Board of Higher Education formally apologized to Foner and other persons who lost their jobs as a result of the Rapp-Coudert Committee, saying it had seriously violated academic freedom. A controversy over Foner's work and scholarship practices arose in academic circles in 2003, with a discussion of plagiarism and sloppy scholarship. The New York Labor History Association had awarded Foner a lifetime achievement award in 1994. It reiterated its support in 2003 that the value of his work exceeded his shortcomings.
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