Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Talk on Black Patriots and Loyalists, Boulder Book Store, this Thursday, May 31 at 7:30

I will talk about and sign Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence at Boulder Book Store this Thursday, May 31 at 7:30.

As a result of recent conversations about the book, I am increasingly connecting the failure of gradual emancipation in the South - a contingent or political failure, I argue in the book - with the reactionary character of the Constitution and how it shapes reaction, for instance, the Senate's fostering of the 1%, even now.

I have also been interested in what it means to find the right question: why I pursued the issue of a revolution for abolition internationally which surged into the American revolution and Haiti and beyond, while others have not (even in the case of Robin Blackburn's The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, memorable on the interplay of Saint Domingue/Haiti and the French Revolution, he dismissed this great story in the light of the economic restoration after the Revolution and the subsequent growth of bondage in the South*). For some of these discussions, see here, here and here.

The Boulder Book Store has been very helpful, but has the counter-productive, if increasingly common policy of charging a $5 admission which can be used toward the price of a book (several people have written to me about it). Like most independent book stores, Boulder Book Store is under threat from vacant - soulless - competition from Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

The beauty of book stores where you can go in and look through books, be intrigued by something you didn't expect, begin reading to see if you like a book, sit down and get lost in it for a while, and then buy it and take it home, of owners who are interested in books and some of the subject matter and connecting with readers, of people working there who love to read and find, despite the difficulties, some joy in working in a bookstore - all this is being gradually lost, collections thinned out, the internet and virtual reality substituting for the physical pleasures of searching and reading, of living among books...

Unfortunately, the store's new policy will probably limit, to some extent, those who will come. Yet anyone who sets foot in the Boulder Book Store is likely to buy something, and any book beats the admission fee several times without stirring annoyance (since I feel it, I expect others do, too). The change in policy reveals the slow dying of an older epoch about reading (the moving of campus libraries largely off campus, the diminution of the stacks is part of this; going down in libraries to search for relevant and unexpected books has been a great experience since Cordoba and Alexandria and flourished until very recently...).

Driving people away who would come otherwise is, in any case, counterproductive.

Yet this is a fine book store, which plays an important role in the community in Boulder. I hope you will come, anyway. For those outside the area, I hope to get a videotape or audiotape up on the web shortly.

*In Blackburn's case, this is a problem of studying a number of revolutions, not probing the United States in depth, not doing a comparison with gradual emancipation in other independence movements in the hemisphere, and allowing economic determinist predispositions to cloud his judgments about North America. At the end of his second volume, written 10 years later, however, he mentions the tens of thousands of blacks who escaped and fought for the British as one of three great instances of slave revolt. That late glimmer might have led him to recast his earlier account, but so far, he has not.

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