Nick Aaron Ford, critic, educator, and activist, was born on August 4, 1904, in Ridgeway, South Carolina, to Nick Aaron Ford, Sr., an enslaved laborer, and Carrie Ford, a substitute teacher. Nick began reading at the age of four, thanks to his mother. He was sent to Winnsboro, Louisiana, when he was 10 years old to attend the Winnsboro Colored High School, where he graduated in 1920 at the age of 16. In 1926, he graduated from Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. Ford then became principal at Schofield Normal School in Aiken. Ford married Janie Etheridge a year later, in 1927, and they had a son, Leonard Aaron.
At the end of the 1928 academic year, Nick Ford left Schofield and enrolled in the graduate program at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, where he studied journalism. His master’s thesis was entitled The Analysis of 18 Novels by 11 Black Authors. While his advisor, Frank L. Mott, director of the journalism school, approved of it, it was not well received. He received his diploma in 1934. The M.A. thesis, however, was published in 1936 as The Contemporary Negro Novel: A Study in Race Relations. Ford completed his Doctor of Philosophy degree at Iowa in 1945. A Study of the Uses of Propaganda in 80 Works of Fiction, Drama, and Poetry by 31 Twentieth-Century Black Authors was the title of his dissertation.
Ford accepted a position as an English professor at Morgan State College (now University) in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1945. Ford wrote Black Insights: Significant Literature by Black Americans – 1760 to the Present during this time period. Best Short Stories by Afro-American Writers, published by Meador Publishing in 1950, was his second book. His essay “Walt Whitman’s Conception of Democracy” appeared in Phylon (the Atlanta University review of race and culture, vol. 11, no. 3) in 1955. In addition, Morgan State published his book Remedial English: Presenting the Minimum Essentials of Grammar and Composition for Students with Diverse Backgrounds in Correct English Knowledge and Use in 1955.
Ford finished his book, Language in Uniform; A Reader on Propaganda, in 1967, and married his second wife, Ola Scroggins Tatum, a year later, in 1968. This union produced no children.
Ford remained a publishing scholar during his final year as chairperson of the Department of Language and the Alain Locke Distinguished Professor of Black Studies at Morgan in 1973. The Associated Faculty Press published his book, Black Studies: Threat or Challenge. Ford was a co-founder of the College Literature Association Journal in 1974.
Nick Aaron Ford died in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 17, 1982. He was 78. In November, his book Seeking a Newer World: Memoir of a Black American Teacher (Todd & Honeywell) was published posthumously.