Stone was born in Philadelphia. His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants who owned a store in Haddonfield, New Jersey. He studied philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, and as a student he wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
After leaving university he joined the Camden Courier-Post. Influenced by the work of Jack London, Stone became a radical journalist. In the 1930s he played an active role in the Popular Front opposition to Hitler.
Stone moved to the New York Post in 1933 and during this period supported Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. His first book, The Court Disposes (1937), was a defence of Roosevelt's attempt to expand the Supreme Court.
After leaving the New York Post in 1939, Stone became associate editor of The Nation. His next book, Business as Unusual (1941), was an attack on the country's failure to prepare for war. Underground to Palestine (1946) dealt with the migration of Eastern European Jews at the end of the Second World War.
In 1948 Stone joined the New York Star. Later he moved to the Daily Compass until it ceased publication in 1952. A critic of the emerging Cold War, Stone wrote the Hidden History of the Korean War (1952).
Inspired by the achievements of the muckracking journalist George Seldes and his political weekly, In Fact, Stone started his own political paper, I. F. Stone's Weekly in 1953. Over the next few years, Stone campaigned against McCarthyism and racial discrimination in the United States. In 1964 Stone was the only American journalist to challenge President Johnson's account of the Gulf of Tonkin incident.
During the 1960s Stone continued to criticize the Vietnam War. His newsletter enjoyed a circulation of 70,000 but in 1971 ill-health forced Stone to cease publication. After his retirement, he learned Ancient Greek and wrote a book about the trial and death of Socrates.
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"You may just think I am a red Jew son-of-a-bitch, but I'm keeping Thomas Jefferson alive." [on journalistic marginalization of him]