Radical Black Reading: Late summer, 2018

A few late summer’s reading suggestions, with a little nod to the impact of the revolutions of 1917 and 1968 on the Caribbean.

In Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions (Pluto) Charles Forsdick and Christian Hogsbjerg have produced what is arguably the most important biography of Louverture since CLR James’ magisterial Black Jacobins was first published in 1938. Kicking against the contemporary anti-Black and anti-radical revisionism that downplays the historical importance of the revolution while dismissing the significance of Louverture himself, Forsdick and Christian Hogsbjerg’s short monograph is urgent, timely, and strikingly well-written.

The Russian Revolution: A View from the Third World (Verso), edited by Jesse Benjamin and Robin D.G. Kelley and with a forward by Vijay Prashad, compiles the surviving texts of a series of lectures given by Walter Rodney at the University of Dar es Salaam during the 1970s. Together, the lectures represent an audacious attempt by the Guyanese Marxist and pan-Africanist to work through the history and historiography of the October Revolution, while grappling with the importance of revolutionary theory for the Third World masses.

Margaret Stevens’ Red International and Black Caribbean: Communists in New York City, Mexico and the West Indies, 1919-1939 (Pluto) is a provocative and deeply researched account of the transnational connections of Black radicals during the turbulent inter-war years. Stevens convincingly argues for the critical significance of the greater-Caribbean to global revolutionary struggle while providing capsule biographies of many un- or lesser-known Black and Brown communists in Haiti, Harlem, Cuba, and Mexico. A necessary starting point for students of the radical Caribbean.

Jean Khalfa and Robert J.C. Young have done us a massive favor by translating Écrits sur l’aliénation et la liberté, their edited collection of Frantz Fanon’s writings, into English as Alienation and Freedom (Bloombury). Included are Fanon’s plays, psychiatric writings, personal letters, and political tracts – as well as a near complete bibliography of the titles in Fanon’s personal library in Algeria. It’s an incredible volume, one that displays Fanon’s astonishing breadth as a writer and thinker while demonstrating the continuing importance of his writings to the present.

Connecting San Juan to Kingston to Pointe-à-Pitre to Havana, geographer Romain Cruse’s Le Mai 68 des Caraïbes (Memoire D’Encrier) is a rare survey of the popular uprisings that emerged across the Caribbean during the sixties and seventies. Cruse re-assesses both the causes and consequences of these Caribbean revolts while reading them in the context of the global turbulence of the time. The publisher’s description of Le Mai 68 des Caraïbes as “a little handbook of resistance” is not off the mark.

Held in Montreal in 1968, the Congress of Black Writers was perhaps the single most important gathering of Black intellectuals and activists of the late sixties. Bringing together the (mostly male) luminaries of the era, its reverberations were immediately felt throughout the Caribbean and North America (see, for instance the Sir George Williams affair in Montreal, the Rodney Riots in Jamaica, and the February Revolt in Trinidad). The proceedings of the Congress, and the political energy of the era, come alive in Moving Against the System: The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness (Pluto Press), edited by long-standing Black Power chronicler David Austin. Unearthing  never-before-seen texts from Stokely Carmichael, Walter Rodney, and C.L.R. James and others, Austin has given us an invaluable source on Black radical thought.

Also: Omar Gueye, Mai 1968 au Sénégal. Senghor face aux étudiants et au mouvement syndical (Karthala). Amzat Boukari-Yabara, Walter Rodney, un historien engage (Presence Africaine). Marlene NourbeSe Philip, Blank. William C. Anderson and Zoé Samudzi, As Black as Resistance: Finding the Conditions for Liberation (AK Press). Naomi Klein, The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists. Sixth Commission of the EZLN, Critical Thought in the Face of the Capitalist Hydra I (Paperboat Press).

Image: The Library of Muyinga, Burundi, BC Architects and Studies.


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