There were a number of unusual aspects to the recent conference on C.L.R. James held at the University of Ottawa. It was probably the first James conference ever supported by a law firm, and was organized and hosted by the Faculty of Law. The occasion for the conference, titled "Re-imagining Western Civilization: On the 60th Anniversary of the Writing of C.L.R. James's American Civilization," was a book few people knew existed until it was posthumously published decades later.
The conference also honored the long-standing connections James and his political comrades had with activists in Canada. As David Austin outlined in his talk (and you can read more about this in the book he has just edited of James's Montreal lectures), Bobby Hill was a Jamaican college student in Canada when he first wrote to Detroit to make contact with James's group.
Soon there was a James study group in Canada involving many student activists who would go on to play a major role in the political evolution of the West Indies and in the intellectual development of black political philosophy.
This conference brought me back together with other James scholars I've met over the years, such as Selwyn Cudjoe, Kent Worcester, Christian Hogsbjerg, Lindsey Swindall, Frank Rosengarten and others. It also introduced me to many new people, including the wonderfuul conference organizers, Joanne St. Lewis and Ravi Malhotra.
My own contribution was a continuation of my work on the James group's engagements with Melville and the U.S. Government's detention of James in the early 1950s.
There is talk of a book project. Stay tuned . . .