F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

Black Jacobins: A Well Written History

For a while I had had C.LR. James’s book Black Jacobins on my shelf wanting to read until this class gave me the chance I had been looking for (I had previously resigned like with most of the books on my shelf to read it over break when it was more convenient) to find out what this text was about. What I found in Black Jacobins was a story about the history of the island of Haiti, the events leading up to the revolution, the various factions both along differing political and racial lines. But more than this text being about what lead up to the revolution and the many players with their own complex motives I found that this text was doing a particular kind of work that I found interesting, thought-provoking, and entertaining. But there is something about what James does that I find interesting as I think about what type of writing and the type of writer that I would like to be. In Jacobins, there is this sense that when James writes he does so in such a way that it is easy for the reader to understand, to parse out the different factions and motives that are at work in the text. Moreover, this text is written in such a way that even if you do not know the history of the Haitian revolution that this text will at the very least give you a good foundation on which to build on. There seems to me to be a problem in academia of how to make difficult or dense theories and make them accessible for those who may not have the time to read the primary texts. James offers an example of how to do the work of making things accessible to the general public without having to water down the complexity and nuance of the texts.

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