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Ford, James William (22 December 1893–21 June 1957), labor leader and Communist party official, was born James William Foursche in Pratt City, Alabama, the son of Lyman Foursche, 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....

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Larkin, James (21 January 1876–30 January 1947), Irish labor leader and charter member of the Communist Labor party in the United States, was born in Liverpool, England, the son of James Larkin (mother’s name unknown). Both of his parents were Irish. When Larkin was eleven, his father died of tuberculosis, the death leaving the family in poverty and cutting short Larkin’s brief formal education. Larkin was taken on as an apprentice at his father’s Liverpool engineering firm, although he soon quit. After hiring on at a series of odd jobs, he landed work as a laborer on the city’s docks in 1893. In that same year an injury at work changed the course of his life. For nineteen weeks he spent his days reading at the local library and his evenings attending open-air socialist meetings. This period of study was the beginning of a lifetime commitment to socialism. Interestingly, Larkin also would cultivate a fervent Irish nationalism. These beliefs mixed with a devout Catholicism, which produced his commitment to improving the lives of working people....