- Official labor historian for the Communist Party
- Reputed plagiarist
- Uncle of radical Columbia University professor Eric Foner
Philip Foner was the Communist Party’s official labor historian. He edited the speeches of Frederick Douglass and also the Black Panthers. Foner was a Stalinist who impugned the reputations of historians who were not supportive of Soviet communism, and was a plagiarist who has been accused of destroying historical documents to prevent other researchers from viewing them. He used, in his own works, entire bodies of text from students’ dissertations, but is also thought to have completely fabricated information. Nonethless his reputation among so-called “progressive” historians remains high. John Earl Haynes, a historian of the Communist movement in America, has said of Foner: “He was a repeated plagiarist, but it doesn’t make any difference, because he’s a hero to radical historians.”
Foner authored more than a hundred volumes on a wide range of topics involving the American labor movement; he also wrote about African American history. His views and interpretations of historical events were unmistakably Marxist,
Foner’s nephew, Eric Foner, is a leading historian and shares the family radicalism. Philip Foner died in 1994.