A Life With A Purpose: George M. Fishman (January 6, 1917-June 30, 2009)

01 Sep 2009 9:28 PM | Posted by GNHLHA

From Newsletter Volume 5, Number 2

 (The following excerpts are from an article in the New Haven Independent On-Line about George M. Fishman, a long time member of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association, reprinted with permission. For the full article, see July 7, 2009.)

George M. Fishman passed away peacefully at his Wooster Street home on Wednesday, June 30th, 2009.  During the 13 years that he and his wife Edie lived in New Haven, he became well known for his scholarship and his activism on behalf of democratic rights, human rights and peace. Fishman, born in Philadelphia on January 6, 1917 to immigrant parents, was a high school social science and history teacher. He held a PhD in History from Temple University.

Since 1938 he was actively involved in African American and labor studies, as researcher, writer and teacher. A selection of his work, “For a Better WorldundefinedA Miscellany: Writings 1952undefined2002 on the African American People’s Freedom/Equality                                                                 Struggles in New Jersey History” was completed in 2002. He was a member of the American Federation of Teachers Retirees Chapter 933R in New Haven.

From 1938 to 1941 Fishman was a staff member of a Works Project Administration (WPA) teaching unit which pioneered in staff development in African American life, history and culture and in conducting classes in labor unions and community organizations. During World War II he was a radio man aboard a Landing Ship Medium (#361) in the Pacific. His service included teaching English. He was awarded four medals: American Theatre, Asian-Pacific, Philippine Liberation and Victory.

Following the war, he taught social studies, history and mathematics mainly in the public secondary schools of Philadelphia but also in New Jersey until his retirement in August, 1984. In 1952 during the McCarthy period he was forced to leave his teaching position as part of the general purge of progressives, including Communists, labor activists and civil rights advocates from public life. He went to work at Campbell’s Soup in Camden, New Jersey where he lived with his family. He was a union shop steward and leader of Local 804 United Packinghouse Workers of America, CIO, for eight years, returning to teach in Philadelphia in 1968, when the school system repudiated past discriminatory practices and all teachers were invited back.

Fishman, who said he lived “a life with a purpose,” participated in community, civil rights, labor and world affairs throughout his life. He is survived by wife Edie, daughter

Joelle and son-in-law Art Perlo of New Haven, and several nieces and nephews.

Greater New Haven Labor History Association  •  267 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06513 •  info@laborhistory.org •

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