Sam Dolgoff was born in the shtetl of Ostrovno near Vitebsk, Russia, and emigrated to the USA with his family at age two. He lived in the Bronx and in Manhattan's Lower East Side. His father was a house painter, and Sam began working as a house painter himself at the age of 11, a profession he kept his entire life.
He was self-educated and spoke six languages. Sam joined the anarchist movement and the Industrial Workers of the World (known as the Wobblies) in 1922, playing an active role in these groups for much of the 20th century. Throughout his life he contributed to anarchist publications, and was a co-founder of the Libertarian Labor Review magazine (later renamed Anarcho-Syndicalist Review). He also wrote books and edited anthologies, including "Bakunin on Anarchy" (1972) and "The Cuban Revolution" (1976), a denunciation of life in Cuba under Fidel Castro, a reflection of his vigorous anti-Communism.