Originally published in England in 1938 (the same year as his magnum opus The Black Jacobins) and expanded in 1969, this work remains the classic account of global black resistance. Robin D.G. Kelley’s substantial introduction contextualizes the work in the history and ferment of the times, and explores its ongoing relevance today.
“A History of Pan-African Revolt is one of those rare books that continues to strike a chord of urgency, even half a century after it was first published. Time and time again, its lessons have proven to be valuable and relevant for understanding liberation movements in Africa and the diaspora. Each generation who has had the opportunity to read this small book finds new insights, new lessons, new visions for their own age…. No piece of literature can substitute for a crystal ball, and only religious fundamentalists believe that a book can provide comprehensive answers to all questions. But if nothing else, A History of Pan-African Revolt leaves us with two incontrovertible facts. First, as long as black people are denied freedom, humanity and a decent standard of living, they will continue to revolt. Second, unless these revolts involve the ordinary masses and take place on their own terms, they have no hope of succeeding.” —Robin D.G. Kelley, from the Introduction
“I wish my readers to understand the history of Pan-African Revolt. They fought, they suffered—they are still fighting. Once we understand that, we can tackle our problems with the necessary mental equilibrium.” —C.L.R. James
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 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.