In the 1970s and ’80s, Linton Kwesi Johnson was fighting neo-fascism and promoting socialism, and putting pen to paper to refute W. H. Auden’s claim that “poetry makes nothing happen.” Dread Poetry and Freedom explores Johnson’s work through the radical political and poetic traditions he engaged, reflecting poetry’s potential to bring about social transformation.
Through an examination of the violence, musicality, and revolution of his poetry, David Austin brings Johnson’s cultural and philosophical influences alive. Encompassing reggae music, the Bible, Rastafari, and surrealism, socialism, and feminism, as well as the radical politics of Aimé Césaire, John La Rose, Frantz Fanon, C. L. R. James, and W. E. B. Du Bois, Johnson’s poetry reveals itself as an important site of diaspora politics and struggle.
Probing the juncture at which Johnson’s poetry meets his politics, Dread Poetry and Freedom shows the significant role art can play in bringing about social change in times of dread.
In 1968, as protests shook France and war raged in Vietnam, the giants of black radical politics descended on Montreal to discuss the unique challenges and struggles facing their black comrades all over the world. Against a backdrop of widespread racism in the West and ongoing colonialism and imperialism in the Global South, this group of activists, writers, and political figures gathered to discuss the history and struggles of people of African descent and the meaning of black power.
For the first time since 1968, David Austin brings alive the speeches and debates of the most important international gathering of black radicals of the era. With never-before-seen texts from Stokely Carmichael, Walter Rodney, and C. L. R. James, these documents will prove invaluable to anyone interested in black radical thought and political activism of the 1960s.