A History of Pan-African Revolt: A Publishers Weekly Review

A History of Pan-African Revolt

Publishers Weekly
March 11th, 2013

This short, perceptive book—part history, part social critique—was first published in 1938 and later expanded in 1969. James (The Black Jacobins), a Marxist scholar, anti-colonialist, and noted black nationalist, explores race relations and black revolutions starting as far back as the 1789 uprising in San Domingo (now Haiti). Subversive and widely considered ahead of its time, the book offers an exacting critique of both imperialism and the Communist International. Pan-African liberation, James argues, can only be realized through bottom up nationalism, never through allegiance with Western capitalism or the international proletariat. USC History professor Robin D.G. Kelley provides a helpful introduction, which places both James and his works within a global context, illustrating the evolution and importance of his ideas. The book’s central message, as Kelley puts it, is that “as long as black people are denied freedom, humanity, and a decent standard of living, they will continue to revolt [and] unless these revolts involve the ordinary masses and take place on their own terms, they have no hope of succeeding.” History, as detailed by James, would back up this claim. More than an historical curiosity, James’s work brims with transcendent ideas so adamant and clear they continue to read fresh today. (Mar)

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