Today is the birthday of C.L.R. James (4 January 1901 – 19 May 1989), the remarkable Marxist humanist and Afro-Trinidadian socialist, historian, journalist, and essayist.
Here are two posts from the archives on James: From “Cricketing in Compton” to the “Cricketing Marxist,” and The Marxist Spirituality of C.L.R. James. And here is a fitting celebratory essay by Christian Høgsbjergon on James’ “magisterial work,” The Black Jacobins (1938, second ed., 1963): “CLR James and the Black Jacobins.”
The following books help illuminate the life and work of C.L.R. James, the “cricketing Marxist” and “urbane revolutionary.”
- Buhle, Paul. C.L.R. James: The Artist as Revolutionary. London: Verso, 1988.
- Buhle, Paul, ed. C.L.R. James: His Life and Work. London: Allison & Busby, 1986.
- Renton, Dave. C.L.R. James: Cricket’s Philosopher King. London: Haus, 2007.
- Robinson, Cedric J. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. London: Zed Books, 1983.
- Rosengarten, Frank. Urbane Revolutionary: C.L.R. James and the Struggle for a New Society. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2008.
- Worcester, Kent. C.L.R. James: A Political Biography. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1996.
One might also read two other books that are not about James or Black Marxism as such: first, Tommie Shelby’s We Who are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005) which makes a compelling argument for aiming to “achieve a robust form of black solidarity without a commitment to black identity,” a view I think has much in common with James’ Marxist humanism. And then Michael C. Dawson’s Blacks In and Out of the Left (Harvard University Press, 2013), which is a brief history of black radicalism in the United States toward outlining the elements of a progressive black radicalism for our own time and place. In the words of Shelby, “in the spirit of hope and possibility, it calls for utopian yet pragmatic political thinking that regards independent black political organizing not as a balkanizing force or distraction from the ‘universal’ fight for a democratic society, but as an indispensable element of any viable Left-wing politics.”