Born Black Hall of Fame: Cyril Lionel Robert James (1901-1989)

The Trinidad and Tobago born historian, novelist, political critic and activist, C.L.R James is considered one of the preeminent political intellectual of the 20th Century. He attended Trinidad’s main governmental secondary school and like his father, he became a teacher in the 1920s, during which he taught the likes of Eric Williams, who later became the leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM) and later, Trinidad’s first Prime Minister.

After moving to London, he played a great role in the independence movement for the West Indies. As a political activist, he had contacts with orthodox communists such as George Padmore, Moscow’s chief agent in charge of African and Pan African affairs as well as a wide variety of Trotskyists and other revolutionaries. James had an enormous influence among the majority of radical black thinkers, novelists and Marxists of his time.

After staying in US for some years, he returned to his birth place where he became the editor of the PNM’s party newspaper, The Nation. James also demonstrated his literary skills through his novel Mint Alley (1936) and the play Toussaint L’Ouverture (1963). His political works include Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution (1977), which today stands as one of the black world’s most treasured books, World Revolution 1917-1936: The Rise and Fall of the Communist Internationaland The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. The later book is of one of the most important studies in the Haitian revolution of 1791-1804, which is the world’s only successful slave revolution leading to the independence of Haiti. In the book, James places the slave revolution in the context of the emerging black nationalism of the 1930s.

Dorla Tune

Dorla Tune is a consultant and writer at D.Scribe Writing and Consulting

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