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Page Title: Documentary

Henry Foner

Henry Foner, first day at school
Henry Foner, first day at school

Henry Foner was a member of the Teachers Union from 1940 to 1948, including his four years of military service in Italy and Austria in World War II, during which he was awarded the Legion of Merit, the military’s fourth highest award and the Italian Military Valor Cross.

Phillip, Moe, Jack and Henry Foner
Phillip, Moe, Jack and Henry Foner

He taught stenography and type writing as a substitute teacher in a number of New York City high schools, including New Utrecht, Samuel J. Tilden and Prospect Heights. After passing the regular examination in that subject, he was denied a license as a result of the New York State Legislature’s Rapp-Coudert Committee’s investigations of so called “subversive activities” in the New York City colleges, which resulted in the discharge of his three brothers – Philip, Jack and Moe – from the staff of the City College – the first two as members of its History Department and the last as an employee in the college registrar’s office.

Henry Foner at work

They were among about fifty faculty members of the city colleges victimized by the Committee and the Board of Higher Education. In 1981, the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York unanimously adopted a resolution apologizing for the actions of its predecessor Board of Higher Education in discharging the teachers and pledging never to allow such a violation of academic freedom to reoccur.

A Lifetime of Teaching and Organizing

Henry Foner congratulates NYC Mayor John V. Lindsay after his speech at the Fur Market rally sponsored by the FLM Joint Board, calling for a moratorium in the war in Vietnam

Henry Foner’s appeal from the denial of his regular teaching license was finally rejected by the State Commissioner of Education in 1948, and he was employed as Educational Director of the Fur Workers’ Joint Board. In 1961, upon the death of the union’s president, Foner was elected president of the union and served in that position until his retirement in 1988. During his presidency, his union grew to represent fur, leather and machine workers in five states along the Atlantic seaboard, and its newspaper, FLM Joint Board TEMPO,which he edited, won ten first-prize  awards for “General Excellence.” Since retirement, he has taught classes in labor history at the Harry Van Arsdale School of Labor Studies, the City College Center for Worker Education, the Brooklyn College Institute for Retirees in Pursuit of Education (IRPE) and served for two years as president of the New York City Congress of Senior Citizens. At the present time, he serves as president of the Paul Robeson Foundation, as a member of the Editorial Board of Jewish Currents magazine, as co-director of the Web site and as president of the New York City Congress of Senior Citizens.

Henry Foner


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