James, Cyril Lionel Robert

James, C. L. R., 1901–1989, Trinidadian historian, journalist, and communist activist, b. Tunapuna, Trinidad and Tobago. A social theorist, anti-colonial scholar, critic, and revolutionary, James was one of the most influential political and literary figures in the West Indies and has been commended as one of the leading global thinkers of the 20th century.

During his early years, James trained as a teacher and worked as a journalist in Trinidad. From 1933 to 1935 he worked as a cricket correspondent for The Manchester Guardian and became a prominent member of the Trotskyist movement in the UK. James moved to the US in 1938, where he wrote and lectured on Pan-Africanism. Although he broke with the Trotskyist movement in 1951, he remained a life-long Marxist. James was expelled from the US because of his socialist views in 1953. In 1962, he moved to London, where he remained until his death in 1989.

James is best known for two books, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938), a study of the slave revolts that led to Haiti's independence, and Beyond a Boundary (1963), which explored the place of cricket in popular culture. While James spent the 1960s and 1970s lecturing in the United States and Europe, he was relatively unknown beyond small academic circles until his writings were reexamined and reappreciated starting in the mid-1980s by the work of cultural theorists like Stuart Hall. James was influential to many Black Power proponents and would become a major figure in cultural studies, postcolonial studies, and anti-colonial history.

See F. Rosengarten, Urbane Revolutionary: C.L.R. James and the Struggle for a New Society (2008); R. Rabaka, Africana Critical Theory: Reconstructing The Black Radical Tradition, From W. E. B. Du Bois and C. L. R. James to Frantz Fanon and Amilcar Cabral (2009); D. Austin, ed., You Don't Play With Revolution: The Montréal Lectures of C.L.R. James (2009); A. L. Nielsen, C. L. R. James: A Critical Introduction (2010); C. Høgsbjerg, C. L. R. James in Imperial Britain (2014); P. Buhle, C.L.R. James: The Artist as Revolutionary (2017); C. Taylor, Empire of Neglect: The West Indies in the Wake of British Liberalism (2018); J. L. Williams, CLR James: A Life Beyond the Boundaries (2022); D. Featherstone et al., ed. Revolutionary Lives of the Red and Black Atlantic since 1917 (2022).

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