120th Anniversary of the Birth of C. L. R. James

c-l-r-james-3C. L. R. James was born on January 4, 1901, 120 years ago today. James’s work has been a huge influence on many of our other authors, and we are proud to be the home for the book series The C. L. R. James Archives, which both recovers works of James himself and offers new scholarship on his work. Christian Høgsbjerg, editor or author of many of the books in the series, says, “The C. L. R. James Archives series under the editorship of Professor Robert A. Hill has played a critical role in helping to ensure that the intellectual legacy of one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable Caribbean revolutionary writers and thinkers has continued to inspire new generations of scholars and activists in the twenty-first century.”

Editorial Director Gisela Fosado says, “C. L. R. James was brilliant, prolific, and influential in wide ranging social movements and scholarly areas. I’ve always loved the way the series forms a backbone for so much of our list. To name the fields that he influenced or that emerged through his influence is basically to name the major areas of strength of our publications.”   

Beyond a BoundaryBeyond a Boundary, which mixes memoir, history, and social commentary through the prism of cricket, is one of James’s best-known and most popular books. Sports Illustrated named it one of the best sports books of all times. Our fiftieth anniversary edition features a new foreword by Paget Henry. Marxism, Colonialism, and Cricket, edited by David Featherstone, Christopher Gair, Christian Høgsbjerg, and Andrew Smith features essays about the classic book.

James’s other best known work is The Black Jacobins, and we have two books in the series that examine that text. The Black Jacobins Reader, edited by Charles Forsdick and Christian Høgsbjerg, features ten essays on the The Black Jacobins by a wide range of scholars. The contributors discuss its production, context, and enduring importance in relation to debates about decolonization, globalization, postcolonialism, and the emergence of neocolonial Making the Black Jacobinsmodernity. Making the Black Jacobins, by Rachel Douglas, examines the 1938 and 1963 editions of The Black Jacobins, the 1967 play of the same name, and James’s 1936 play, Toussaint Louverture—as well as manuscripts, notes, interviews, and other texts—to show how James continuously rewrote and revised his history of the Haitian Revolution as his politics and engagement with Marxism evolved. James’s play Toussaint Louverture was once thought lost until Christian Høgsbjerg located a draft copy in an archive in 2005. Our edition of the play includes the program, photographs, and reviews from that production, a contextual introduction and editorial notes on the play by Høgsbjerg, and selected essays and letters by James and others.

Høgsbjerg remarks, “Recent works of scholarship on C. L. R. James in the series such as these clearly remind us of the relevance of James’s classic history of the Haitian Revolution for the global Black Lives Matter movement today.” James and The Black Jacobins are regularly referenced in popular culture as well as by academics. The recent Steve McQueen film Small Axe features James as a character (played by Derek Griffiths) and another major character is seen reading The Black Jacobins.

CLR James in Imperial BritainChristian Høgsbjerg is also the author of C. L. R. James in Imperial Britain, which chronicles James’s life and work during his first extended stay in Britain, from 1932 to 1938. It reveals the radicalizing effect of this critical period on James’s intellectual and political trajectory. 

One of the goals of the series is to bring lesser known works by C. L. R. James back into print. Thus far, along with Toussaint Louverture, we have republished World Revolution, 1917–1936: The Rise and Fall of the Communist International, originally published in 1937, and The Life of Captain Cipriani, James’s earliest full-length work of nonfiction, originally published in 1932. Bridget Brereton edited and introduces The Life of Captain Cipriani, which also includes the pamphlet “The Case for West-Indian Self Government.” Christian Høgsbjerg is the editor of World Revolution, 1917-1936.

Høgsbjerg says, “For much of his own life, so many of even the most essential and foundational of  James’s works were sadly out of print, while much else by him never even found its way into print.  It is therefore tremendous that, thanks to Duke University Press, admirers of James are now able to read some of his very earliest political writings on black and colonial liberation, in works such as The Life of Captain Cipriani and his legendary play Toussaint Louverture, something which would have been almost unthinkable before the series began. Long may the series continue!”

2 comments

  1. Thanks for making the works of C.L.R. James available. His life and work intersected with so many of the major currents of thought and change in the twentieth century. They are relevant today as they were when first published.

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