The Unfinished Autobiography of C.L.R. James

In his book C.L.R. James: the Artist as Revolutionary, Paul Buhle refers in several places to a manuscript of an abortive attempt at an autobiography by James. Buhle describes the project, undertaken in the last period of James’s life with the assistance of Anna Grimshaw, as one that simply did not jell the way one would have hoped. Criticism &c. has discovered that this unfinished manuscript is now available for researchers in the collection of Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, home to the C.L.R. James Papers.

The manuscript is contained in Series 1 of the Anna Grimshaw Papers. A detailed container list is available. From a cursory examinination of the contents of the collection, it appears that the work was approached chronologically and that James and Grimshaw made it up to the Johnson-Forest Tendency years, but no farther.

Grimshaw was closely identified with James in the years before his death in 1989. She was responsible in part for the explosion of interest in James in the 1990s and edited the C.L.R. James Reader (1992), (with Keith Hart) James’s important manuscript American Civilization (1993), and Special Delivery: the Letters of C.L.R. James to Constance Webb (1996). She now teaches anthropology at Emory University and is the author of The Ethnographer’s Eye: Ways of Seeing in Anthropology.

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