“Almost As If Their Spirits Are Still There” - David Austin on The 1968 Congress of Black Writers

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In this episode we interview David Austin, and discuss his book Moving Against The System: The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness.

David Austin is the author of Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal and Dread Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution. He has also produced radio documentaries for CBC Ideas on the life and work of both CLR James and Frantz Fanon. A former youth worker and community organizer, he currently teaches in the Humanities, Philosophy and Religion Department at John Abbott College and in the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

For Moving Against The System Austin provided an introduction and compiled and edited the speeches from the Congress of Black Writers.

In this conversation we talk with David Austin about the context of this historic gathering in Montreal, Canada in 1968, amid the rising tide of the Black Power Movement. We ask Austin about the involvement of key figures from the congress including Kwame Ture, Walter Rodney, CLR James, James Forman, and Richard B. Moore among many others.

David Austin also shares some great insights from the intellectual and political practice of CLR James, and the proliferation of study circles with which James engaged directly.

We ask about some of the contradictions and debates that come up in the Congress around the presence or role of whites, questions of Black Nationalism and socialism, varying analyses around class and race, lessons to be derived from African history, the omission of women from the group of presenters, and some of the generational divides.

Finally, David shares some great reflections on the vibrancy of Black internationalism in the middle of the 20th Century, further highlighting figures like CLR James and Walter Rodney, and discussing Claudia Jones as an example as well.

If you’re interested in picking up this book, Pluto Press is in the middle of its Radical May Sale so you can grab this or any of their other books for 50% off until May 12th.

And if you like the work that we do and are able to support, we definitely need new patrons to continue to sustain our work. You can support the show over on patreon for as little as $1 a month and it’s a great way to keep up with the podcast, and also you get notified when new rounds of our study group open up.

Several of Austin's works, including Moving Against The System are available also through Canadian publisher Between The Lines.

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