National Security Letters: C. L. R. James, Melville, and the State

Author:Aldon Lynn Nielsen Time:2019-07-09 Click:

In the early 1950s, at the height of America’s McCarthyite witch hunts and anti-communist hysteria, Trinidad-born C.L.R. James, who had been living in the United States illegally since 1938, was arrested and held for deportation on the basis of his Marxist philosophy and activism. While imprisoned on Ellis Island, he drafted the text of Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In, a book that is equal parts literary criticism and argument for the very Americanness of James’s revolutionary thought. This essay examines the discussions within James’s revolutionary organization surrounding the composition of that work, and the centrality of Melville to their visions of a revolutionary America.

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