After a record 19 consecutive years at Florida International University (FIU) in 2021, the Lecture found a new home at the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. Celebrating Eric Williams, an online exhibition of the Eric Williams Memorial Collection Museum at the University of the West Indies (UWI, Trinidad and Tobago) is also available for viewing on the website.
This year, the Lecture again hosts distinguished scholar, activist/organizer, teacher, and writer Angela Davis, internationally renowned for her ongoing work to combat all forms of oppression in the U.S. and abroad. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, and she is the author of nine books, including “Angela Davis: An Autobiography”; “Women, Race, and Class”; “Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday”; “The Angela Y. Davis Reader”; “Are Prisons Obsolete?”; a new edition of “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”; and “The Meaning of Freedom”. During the last twenty-five years, Professor Davis has lectured in all of the fifty United States, as well as in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the former Soviet Union. She is a living witness to the historical struggles of the contemporary era.
Established in 1999 at FIU, the Eric Williams Memorial Lecture honors the legendary Caribbean statesman, eminent historian, and author of several books. His 1944 groundbreaking study “Capitalism and Slavery” arguably re-framed the historiography of the British trans-Atlantic slave trade, and established the contribution of Caribbean slavery to the development of both Britain and America. It has been translated into 9 languages: Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Turkish, Korean among them (with a Dutch translation forthcoming). An almost 80-year-old still highly controversial and provocative text, popularly referred to as ‘The Williams Thesis’, the book argues, among other propositions, that slave trade revenue fueled the rise of the British Industrial Revolution; and that its declining profitability, not solely humanitarianism, gave the impetus to British abolition. Never out of print in the US, in March 2022 “Capitalism and Slavery” was listed at #5 on the UK Sunday Times Bestseller list.
Davis, the 2003 speaker at the 5th Annual Eric Williams Memorial Lecture at FIU, told a notable anecdote in her preamble. Jailed in the US in the 1970s, “Capitalism and Slavery” was the one book she requested that her lawyers had to literally fight to get into her prison cell.
Eric Williams was also the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and Head of Government for a quarter of a century until his death in 1981. He led the country to Independence from Britain in 1962 and onto Republicanism in 1976.
Among prior Eric Williams Memorial Lecture speakers have been: the late John Hope Franklin, one of Americas premier historians of the African-American experience; Kenneth Kaunda, former President of the Republic of Zambia; Cynthia Pratt, former Deputy Prime Minister of the Bahamas; Mia Mottley, now Prime Minister of Barbados; Beverly Anderson-Manley, former First Lady of Jamaica; Portia Simpson Miller, former Prime Minister of Jamaica; Hon. Kenny Anthony, former Prime Minister of Saint Lucia; Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and The Grenadines; prize-winning Haitian author Edwige Danticat and award-winning author, historian and educator, Dr. Carol Anderson of “White Rage” fame.
The Lecture, which seeks to provide an intellectual forum for the examination of pertinent issues in Caribbean and African Diaspora history and politics, is co-sponsored in part by UTs Center for the Study of Race and Democracy; Glenn Joseph; Dr. & Mrs. Leroy Lashley; Jerry Nagee.
The Lecture is also supported by The Eric Williams Memorial Collection Research Library, Archives & Museum at UWI, which was inaugurated by former US Secretary of State, Colin L. Powell in 1998. It was named to UNESCOs prestigious Memory of the World Register in 1999.
Books by Eric Williams and Angela Davis will be available for purchase at the Lecture.
– EWMC –