What follows is the paper I gave at the AAIHS conference in Nashville. I was on a S-USIH sponsored panel with our very own Robert Greene II who gave a paper on the southern black left in recent US history and that was chaired by the dynamic scholar Zandria Robinson. I learned tons from the critical comments I received, and from other sessions I attended, particularly sessions dedicated to the work of W.E.B. Du Bois and Cedric Robinson. The latter session, which was a roundtable on the legacy of Robinson that included three memorable presentations by Minkah Makalani, Tiffany Ruby Patterson, and Stephen Ward, proved particularly humbling. It made me realize how much I have yet to learn about Cedric Robinson and the black radical tradition. That panel, and several others at the conference, also made me realize that my paradigms are not the same as many AAIHS scholars. It is for this reason that my mind has been on fire ever since Nashville. I will definitely return to AAIHS next year and in the years to come. Thanks to all who have worked hard to make it happen. (For regular S-USIH readers, some of this material will seem familiar, but much of it is new.)
Two of the greatest history books ever written emerged three years apart: W.E.B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America (1935) and C.L.R. James’s The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938). Both were about race, class, slavery, capitalism, and revolution, and both were forged with comparable purposes. Du Bois and James sought that their historical insights about revolutions past would speak to revolutions future.
Du Bois wished for his trailblazing analysis of the Civil War and Reconstruction to endow the wisdom of past struggles upon the coming movement for black rights in the United States. James hoped that his remarkable inquiry into the Haitian Revolution would speak to the emerging anticolonial movements in Africa. Continue reading