Moving Against the System

Moving Against the System:
The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness
With editor and author David Austin

In 1968, as protests shook France and war raged in Vietnam, the giants of Black radical politics descended on Montreal to discuss the unique challenges and struggles facing their Black brothers and sisters. For the first time since 1968, David Austin brings alive the speeches and debates of the most important international gathering of Black radicals of the era.

Against a backdrop of widespread racism in the West, and colonialism and imperialism in the ‘Third World’, this group of activists, writers and political figures gathered to discuss the history and struggles of people of African descent and the meaning of Black Power.

With never-before-seen texts from Stokely Carmichael, Walter Rodney and C.L.R. James, these documents will prove invaluable to anyone interested in Black radical thought, as well as capturing a crucial moment of the political activity around 1968.

David Austin is the author of the Casa de las Americas Prize-winning Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal, Moving Against the System: The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness, and Dread Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution. He is also the editor of You Don’t Play with Revolution: The Montreal Lectures of C.L.R. James.

 

Tickets are sliding scale / No one is turned away for inability to pay

 

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Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner

William Styron’s historical novel The Confessions of Nat Turner won the Pulitzer Prize in 1968. The novel made the world conscious of the slave revolt in Virginia led by Turner in 1831. Styron was a white writer from Virginia. In response to the success of Styron’s novel, an anthology of African-American criticism was published by Beacon Press featuring the work 10 different critics. In addition to the criticism of Styron there were a number of African-American writers who were encouraged and praised Styron for his work, most notably James Baldwin. Baldwin predicted that the history of the rebellion would continue to be written for years. This remains true today.

This May, our Thursday literature group will read Styron’s novel, the Beacon Press anthology, William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, as well as the essay Baldwin wrote in defense of Styron. Many profound questions concerning race, class, the rendering of historical presentation, claims on sectors of our shared history, etc. are raised in the novel and in the anthology. We will discuss as many of these questions as possible including having a careful read of Baldwin’s essay on the work. This class is also part of The MEP noting this being a half-century since the pivotal year of 1968.

THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES READING GROUP which has grown from the enthusiastic call for the need of greater understanding of the long history of the peoples of North America and other continents of the world who were of those continents before and remain after the European colonists came to settle and bring this capitalist relations to every corner of the globe. Our group began following a stirring presentation by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz September of 2014 where she introduced An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.

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The Emancipation of Labor

The Civil War and the Making of the American Working Class
A talk and discussion with author Mark Lause

Mark A. Lause will provide an overview of his widely acclaimed book Free Labor: The Civil War and the Making of the American Working Class (2016) and discuss his current project on the origins of American socialism, taking up little-known aspects of the emergence of a class-struggle perspective on the American left. He will consider why those dimensions have thus far received little attention from historians and socialists. Northern workers “took up arms because they understood the importance of the conflict in shaping the future value of ‘free labor,’” and a “rolling strike of the slaves” in the South became “the great incontrovertible and irreversible fact of the war”.

Mark A. Lause is a professor of history at the University of Cincinnati who focuses on U.S. labor movements in the nineteenth century. A lifelong radical, his Free Labor: The Civil War and the Making of the American Working Class (2016) is the most recent in a series of works on the Civil War era. Others include studies of land reform, spiritualism, secret societies, and bohemianism, and Race & Radicalism in the Union Army, on the tri-racial experience of the Federal Army of the Frontier. A forthcoming book will address The Great Cowboy Strike and western labor struggles in the 1880s. His reviews and essays on contemporary politics have appeared in Against the Current, Counterpunch, Jacobin, and The North Star, where he serves on the editorial board. A veteran of SDS and the radicalization of the 1960s, Lause has joined various socialist organizations over the last half century – most expelled him and all disappointed him. Long interested in environmental issues, he has been identified with the Green Party since the 1990s and served on the state committee of the Ohio party.

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