Darcus Howe: A Political Biography

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9781849664950: Darcus Howe: A Political Biography
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This is a political and intellectual biography of an important and controversial figure in British race politics. In recent years Darcus Howe has been a high-profile (and not uncontroversial) television journalist, but he also has a long history as a grass-roots activist. He moved from Trinidad to Britain in April 1962. At the end of the 1960s he traveled widely participating in a variety of campaigns on the cutting edge of the black radical movement. In Canada he took part in the Congress of Black Writers; in America where he worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in New York; and in Trinidad he was assistant editor at The Vanguard during the Black Power Revolution of 1970. On his return to Britain in the early 70s he spearheaded the campaign against police racism in London and joined the British Black Panthers - the first Black Panther organisation outside the US. Here he attracted the attention of Special Branch, was arrested and had to defend himself at the Old Bailey. Over the next decade he was a member of a number of high profile campaigns that took on the National Front and police racism - campaigns which led to a seismic shift in British attitudes to race and culture more generally.

Darcus Howe: A Political Biography uses Howe's dramatic personal history as a lens through which to explore the British civil rights movement in the defining years of the 1970s and 80s. It also links the struggle for racial justice in Britain with the fight for black emancipation in the USA and the anti-colonial movement in the Caribbean. Howe has a unique intellectual position forged through his personal experience and through his interaction with leading black thinkers such as C. L. R. James (his great uncle) and Kwame Toure.

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Darcus Howe has had a somewhat dramatic personal and political life, both of which are sewn together seamlessly in the forthcoming book Darcus Howe: A Political Biography. -- Subi Shah * New Internationalist magazine * An obvious candidate [for the Orwell Prize] from this year's nominees is Robin Bunce and Paul Field's "political biography" of the activist and journalist Darcus Howe. The book is political in far more than its content: as the authors rightly say, Britain's Black Power movement is in danger of being written out of history. -- Conrad Landin * The Independent * The first detailed history of black power in Britain . . . Bunce and Paul Field have published a political biography of Darcus Howe - one of the most significant black activists in Britain - using him as a framework for a history of the black power movement in Britain. -- Mark Brown * The Guardian * This new book, co-authored by the Haldane Society's Paul Field, is passionately conceived, thoroughly researched, and very well written. It is thoroughly recommended ... I can also vouch for the authors' accuracy and objectivity, and the skill with which they bring key events of the last forty plus years to life ... Howe was never an organiser, nor a leader. But he has played a very considerable role in the movement for a distinctive Black British identity. This new book brings the man and forty years of tumultuous history to life, and never forgets the role of the political analysis which Howe learnt from C. L. R. James. -- Bill Bowring, Professor of Law, University of London * Socialist Lawyer * This book is a an invaluable contribution to a vital task: uncovering the history of black activism in Britain and its relationship to global trends. The authors place the meaning and impact of Black Power, so often caricatured, in a richly chronicled context. In the spirit of CLR James, a figure who rightly presides over the book, as he did over the life of its subject, they focus on grass-roots creativity, on the interventions of people on the margins. In so doing, they bring to life a series of dramatic struggles, including the Black Power revolt in Trinidad, the persecution of the Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill and the ground-breaking resistance to it, the New Cross fire and the Brixton riots of 1981. The book is a powerful reminder of much of our recent history, a history in danger of being forgotten or filed away under glib rubrics. * Mike Marqusee, author of Redemption Song: Muhammed Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties (2005). * This is a long overdue and badly needed biographical portrait of the black Trinidadian political radical and broadcaster Darcus Howe, who as one of the leading ideological agitators of the British Black Power Movement made a critical contribution to the shaping of modern multiracial and multicultural `postcolonial' Britain...The pioneering efforts of Bunce and Field, undertaken in close collaboration with Howe himself and his partner, Leila Hassan, mean that for the first time the essential facts of Howe's life and work are presented in one volume, complete with some remarkable photographs. At least some aspects of the fascinating, gripping, and often inspiring record of activism and campaigning that emerges will doubtless be new to the vast majority of readers, and the authors are to be commended for making this such an accessible and readable narrative that illuminates the wider civil rights and black liberation struggle in Britain. -- Christian Hogsbjerg, University of York * Twentieth Century British History * Darcus Howe has been a towering figure,a powerful voice and an indominatable spirit for nearly half a century. His life embraces the history and critical importance of the struggle for justice and equality before the law. The lessons so graphically described in this book should not be forgotten by anyone lest we be condemned to relive them. * Michael Mansfield, Professor of Law at City University and Visiting Professor of Law at Birkbeck London, UK * Bruce and Field's new biography shows Howe as an indomitable class fighter, a man who refuses to allow even the threat of prison, or a diagnosis of cancer to silence him...The story of their [Howe and CLR James] personal relationship and thie response to British society is interweaved into the narrative of this text, a story that remains little known outside of the black community...For those interested in the significance and development of black urban politics in Britain, this book offers an informative, stimulating and at times controversial read. -- Jacqueline Walker, author of Pilgrim State (Sceptre, 2008) * writing in Labour Briefing * This riveting study illuminates the complexity of Darcus Howe's lifelong dedication to radical politics. Diligently researched and engagingly written, this remarkable book articulates and salutes a unique presence in modern British history; an activist whose stance against racial oppression remains undiminished, unapologetic and uncompromising, in a contemporary world too-often dominated by the shape-shifting of spin and short-term reactive thinking. -- Deirdre Osborne, Goldsmiths College, University of London One of the most exciting books on the shelves at the moment * Left Futures * Just how far the British Left needs to travel in order to reshape its politics via the Black British experience is revealed by the superb Darcus Howe: A Political Biography which via personal testimony revisits a history of migration, self-self-organisaton and resistance which exists largely outside of traditional Left politics. -- Mark Perryman, Philosophy Football * Counterfire * This biography of Darcus Howe is undoubtedly a labour of love. Robin Bunce and Paul Field have made a creditable attempt to chart postwar black activism though one man's life. And there can be no other person more appropriate to build the story around - because Darcus Howe is one of the standout activists and public intellectuals of his generation.....The biography describes some of the big political campaigns in which Howe played a central role, which may not be familar to those who know him for only his television appearances. He was also editor of Race Today, required reading for any black activist at the time, and played a crucial role in the Race Today Collective. In March 1981, after a suspected racist arson attack caused the New Cross Fire, killing 13 young black people, Howe helped organise the Black People's Day of Action. I was on the march and it was electrifying - over 20,000 people, the largest black demonstration I had ever seen. I remember our chant: "Thirteen dead; nothing said." The following month, in the aftermath of the original the Brixton riots, Howe was again at the centre of the community's response. He went on to have a distinguished career as a journalist for national publications, including the New Statesman, television presenter and commentator. And yet, for many of us, he will always be that man in the dock at the Mangrove trail, standing up to an institutioanlly racist state - and standing up for us all. This meticulous biography sets out the facts about a life and an era that should be far more widely known. -- Diane Abbott MP * The New Statesman * Presents a hidden history, providing valuable contributions to black British intellectual thought and community struggles, where the theme of education is consistently called upon to provide clarity, direction and a practical application for those most affected by white supremacy in the centre of Empire. -- Adam Elliott-Cooper * Race Ethnicity and Education * This fascinating political biography of Darcus Howe will teach even the most knowledgeable of students of Caribbean history and the struggles of the diaspora many valuable lessons... Howe survived police harassment, imprisonment, death threats from the Trinidadian state and the pressure to metamorphose into a middle class peacemaker that went with becoming something of a media star and then broadcaster. It is a testimony to the strength of his resolve that he still remains committed to struggle from below - a struggle in which black people had to find their voice but also one where he did not give up totally on the possibilities of wider class unity, although it was perhaps for others to concentrate on this. Howe persists as a troublemaker and this book is a fitting and honest testimony to his continuing contribution to the struggle for black liberation and radical change. * Gary McFarlane, International Socialism * ...Bunce and Field have a fine ear for courtroom drama, and bring out well the radical legal strategies which Howe adopted - from challenging certain jurors before the [Mangrove] trial began in order to maximise both black and white working-class representation, to the decision to represent himself (while other defendants were represented) and his effective cross examination of police witnesses. It is easy to see a synergy between confrontational tactics of this sort and Howe's political radicalism. And their accounts of the protests in 1970-1 and 1981 are compelling. -- David Renton, author of CLR James: Cricket's Philosopher King ..Bunce and Field's lucid and well-researched account, which draws on a wide range of original interviews and archival investigation in order to tell the story of Howe's political life is extremely welcome...For those researching these central events in the history of anti-racist struggle in Britain, there will be much that is useful in this study, including new assessments and recollections from those involved. -- Andrew Smith * Ethnic and Racial Studies * Darcus Howe is more than simply a biography of its subject. It is, quite simply, an essential source for anybody who wishes to understand the Black British experience of the last 50 years. It debates Howe's transatlantic connections, his links with the both the establishment and its critics, and his many political campaigns, all the while insisting that he might be a British icon, but he remains thoroughly West Indian....the authors deserve great credit for producing a study against which all future work on Howe must be compared. They point out in the introduction that 'we ignore Howe at our peril'. The same might be said of their biography. -- Dr Joe Street * Immigrants & Minorities: Historical Studies in Ethnicity, Migration and Diaspora *

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