'A Microcosm of the General Struggle' : Black Thought and Activism in Montreal, 1960-1969

Type of resource
'A Microcosm of the General Struggle' : Black Thought and Activism in Montreal, 1960-1969
The author examines the history of Black radical thought and activism in 1960s Montreal. He notes that Montreal played an important role in the development of new tendencies in Black radicalism as a community of expatriate West Indian activists, frustrated at the failures of post-colonial West Indian states to fulfill the promises of independence, influenced by the growing radicalization of the African-American freedom struggle, and reacting to the racism they experienced in Canada, contributed to the development of a distinctly West Indian approach to Black Power and to an intensification of Canadian anti-racist activism. The author points out that West Indian intellectuals and activists theorized Canada’s relationship with the West Indies as one in which a neo-imperial power extracted wealth from, and exercised political control over, the Commonwealth Caribbean. These critiques, he explains, were a key aspect of the West Indian Black Power movement, which set itself apart from its African-American counterpart by putting relationships between the formerly-colonized nations and the industrialized world, and not domestic relations between Black people and a white power structure, at its core. Montreal was a site for debate over three key intellectual building blocks of West Indian Black Power: Lloyd Best’s notion of intellectual freedom, C.L.R. James’s revolutionary readings of West Indian history and identity, and Walter Rodney’s explorations of African history as a revolutionary tool. The author argues that Montrealers, secure in a national mythology of Canada as nation free of systematic racism, often refused to acknowledge the relevance of anti-racist activism to Canada. Moreover, he explains, their responses to political developments in the West Indies and in Africa revealed the extent to which enduring ideas of Blacks as underdeveloped and oftentimes violent subjects—legacies of an imperial history that Canada was actively eschewing as it formed a new national identity—continued to shape Canadians’ understanding of the wider world.
PhD dissertation
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI
# of Pages
Hébert, Paul C. “’A Microcosm of the General Struggle’ : Black Thought and Activism in Montreal, 1960-1969.” PhD dissertation, University of Michigan, 2015. https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/113628/phebert_1.pdf?sequence=1.
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