Foster, William Z.

Foster, William Z. (Zebulon)

(1881–1961) Communist leader; born in Taunton, Mass. An itinerant laborer in his youth, he joined the Socialist Party (1901) and worked as a labor organizer for the next two decades; he gained fame by organizing the 1919 steel strike. In 1921 he joined the American Communist Party, serving as secretary general until 1930; he was the party's presidential candidate in 1924, 1928, and 1932. Poor health limited his activities in the 1930s, but he remained an ardent Communist and advocate of total loyalty to the U.S.S.R. In 1945 he regained chairmanship of the party from the less rigid Earl Browder, holding the post until 1956. Indicted with 11 others under the Smith Act (1948), on charges of advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government, he was excused from trial because of ill health. He died in Moscow shortly after going there for medical treatment. Although lacking formal education, he wrote many essays and books.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.