A James Boggs Reader

Michigan Citizen, January 16-22, 2011

Pages from a Black Radical’s Notebook, a James Boggs Reader, compiled and edited with a 34 page introduction by University of Michigan historian Stephen M. Ward, will be released in February by Wayne State University Press.

The Reader is part of the African American Life series, edited by WSU Professor Melba Joyce Boyd who is planning a book party Tuesday evening, February 15, at the McGregor Conference Center.

Described as “required reading for anyone who wants to understand urban social transformation in the second half of the twentieth century,” the Reader is arranged in four chronological parts that document Jimmy’s activism and writing.

Part 1 presents columns from Correspondence written during the 1950s and early 1960s. Titles include “What makes Americans run?” and “A Visit from the FBI.”

Part 2 presents the complete text of The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook, Jimmy’s most widely known work which documents the rise and fall of the union and the challenge of automation. It was translated and published in French, Italian, Japanese and Catalan.

Part 3, “Black Power—Promise, Pitfalls and Legacies,” collects essays, pamphlets and speeches that reflect Jimmy’s participation in and analysis of the origins, growth and demise of the Black Power movement.

This section includes the complete text of the Manifesto for a Black Revolutionary Party, Jimmy’s 1972 New York Times column “Beyond Rebellion,” and “Think Dialectically, not Biologically,” his 1974 speech challenging Black Nationalism.

Part 4 comprises pieces written in the last decade of his life, the 1980s and early 1990s. During this period Jimmy not only challenged Coleman Young’s Casino gambling proposals. He proposed Detroit Summer, a youth program to “redefine, rebuild and respirit Detroit from the ground up” and insisted that the time had come to “Stop Thinking Like Victims and Act Like Citizens, Not Subjects.”

Steve Ward’s introduction provides priceless insights into the pivotal role that Jimmy’s southern roots played in his thinking and practice. “The youngest of four children born to Ernest and Lelia Boggs, young James picked blackberries and worked in cotton fields as a child. He attended school in Selma and Bessemer, and at an early age became something of a scribe, penning letters for elderly people in the community who had not learned to write. Throughout most of his adult life as an activist, he credited the community in which he was raised for instilling in him a sense of responsibility and an appreciation for struggle, a sensibility that is captured in the African American folk saying “‘making a way out of no way.’”

The introduction also provides an account of our close relationship and later split with C.L. R. James, and of our relationships with Robert Williams, Rev. Cleage, and the Henry brothers, Milton and Richard.

It concludes with an Afterword by me and over 15 pages of endnotes.

A paperback copy of the Reader, $27.95, can be ordered from WSU Press, 4809 Woodward Ave., Detroit 48201 plus $5.50 SH for the1st book, $1.00 for each additional book.

Books will be available at the February book party where we plan to show the 11 minute video of Jimmy that was produced for his Memorial Celebration in 1993.

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