Sunday, July 6, 2008

Write On! The Meanings of 1808 and the Meanings of CLR James

Two recent Calls for Papers may be of interest to the legal historians and otherwise interdisciplinary-minded among us… One involves a 200th anniversary commemoration of the legal prohibition on “importing” Africans into the United States for enslavement. Another examines the life and legacy of African-Caribbean scholar-activist (and sports enthusiast) CLR James.

1808: Fighting for the Right to Dream
The organizing committee sent us the “Call for Papers and Witness” for an interdisciplinary and transnational conference on Saturday, 25 October 2008 in Toledo, Ohio. Abstracts (1-2 pages) should be sent to Professor Ben Davis (e-mail of the University of Toledo College of Law by August 15, 2008.
Here’s a taste of what looks to be a groundbreaking “truth and reconciliation” session for the United States and beyond… (Image Right: Frontispiece of 1789 autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, an African man who was kidnapped from his home and enslaved in the Americas. He purchased his freedom and became a prominent abolitionist. Image Credit: The Board of Trustees of the National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside, Merseyside Maritime Museum).

Scholars are invited to come to Toledo and bear witness and discuss 1808… the year of the abolition of the importing of slaves into the United States.… The papers and witness being invited in this call for papers are about the meanings of 1808. Those meanings might be found in the life of a slave in the United States at that time such as Barbary. Born in 1787 in Africa and sold into slavery in 1800 in North Carolina to the Harrison family (of Founders and Presidents fame), Barbary was enslaved, black and twenty-one in 1808. How do we keep slave stories such as her story alive?

Those meanings might be found in 1847 in the founding of
Liberia and Liberia’s history. Or in the Civil War. Or in Reconstruction. Or in Jim Crow. Or in 1908, year of birth of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall whose life was dedicated to fighting for the right to dream. Or in a picture in a courtroom in Norman, Oklahoma in 1948 of Ada Sipuel dreaming of being a lawyer. Or in the mass movements of the civil rights and human rights movements. Or in 1968 with the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.…

Those meanings might be found in Africa and the Middle East,
Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Australia and the Pacific. What does 1808 mean to the world? .... Scholars from around the world ... are invited to submit.

CLR James on American Civilization
Co-convenors Professor Joanne St. Lewis (left) and Professor Ravi Malhotra (lower left) of the English Common Law Section, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, alerted us to another interdisciplinary gathering. This time the meeting takes place in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on Friday, 20 March 2009. The focus is on the implications of James’ publication of American Civilization (a work begun in 1949) as well as the impressive scope and impact of James’ life and work overall. Proposals should include a cover letter, c.v., and abstract of no more than 300 words (in either French or English). The deadline circulated earlier has been extended, so please contact Professor Malhotra (e-mail or Professor St. Lewis (e-mail for further information. Here's an abstract of the Call:
Reimagining Western Civilization: On the 60th Anniversary of the Writing of C.L.R. James’ American Civilization

In 1949, the great Caribbean historian and intellectual, C.L.R. James, began to write what would become one of his most important if all too often ignored works, American Civilization. Published the following year, American Civilization boldly reframed the relationship between popular art and culture, through a discussion of the work of Walter Whitman and Herman Melville. James sought to explore the complex relationship between individual freedom and social life through what he saw as the dynamic struggle for happiness in modernmerican society. In this one day conference scheduled for March 20th, 2009, we seek to explore all facets of James’ complex life from anti-colonial struggles to racism and Black Nationalism to cricket and beyond.

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