The gentle revolutionary: Jan Carew at 90

David Austin lives in Montreal and is the editor of the recently published book: ‘You Don’t Play with Revolution: The Montreal Lectures of CLR James.’ He recently spoke at an event celebrating Jan Carew’s 90th birthday sponsored by the Department of Pan-African Studies at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He shared the platform with Eusi Kwayana.

Jan Carew, who celebrated his 90th birthday on September 24,  has lived an extraordinary and itinerant life, or many overlapping lives, and seemingly many lifetimes. He begins in Guyana, but in many ways his life defies space and time. He is the quintessential diasporic persona, a happy wanderer whose presence helped to shape seminal moments in the lives of people of African and Caribbean descent.

Jan reported for the London Observer on the Cuban Missile Crisis from Havana; joined the Laurence Olivier Company in the 1950s and acted in several plays while simultaneously working for the BBC. He also studied dentistry at Charles University in Czechoslovakia and travelled to and wrote about Russia and people of African descent.

Jan worked alongside Claudia Jones and other notable Black and Caribbean figures as they attempted to humanize Britain, to liberate the decaying empire from itself and its legacy of colonialism and racism in the 1950s. He wrote several books of fiction, including Moscow is Not My Mecca, Black Midas, The Wild Coast and The Last Barbarian and several generations of West Indians were weaned on his children’s stories. He served as director of culture in Guyana in 1962 and an advisor to the Publicity Secretariat and editor of African Review in Ghana (1965-1966) and was detained when President Kwame Nkrumah was deposed in a military coup.

During his sojourn in Canada (1966-1969), Jan became the centre of a burgeoning literary scene, writing and mounting plays, including Behind God’s Back which, adapted from a short story by Austin Clarke, aired on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television in 1969. He started Cotopaxi, a literary journal that included poets and future University of the West Indies professor Cliff Lashley, Canadian poet Milton Acorn, and Jamaican Rudolph Murray, future editor of Black Images, arguably Canada’s first national Black arts and culture magazine. Still in Canada, he was active, and a voice of reason within, the Black Power movement, and later joined forces with Indigenous peoples in Canada’s Red Power movement.

Since 1969, Jan has lived and taught in the US where he was part of the burgeoning Black Studies movement in American universities, educating two generations of students at Northwestern, Rutgers, Princeton, Lincoln, and Louisville... [ More ]

Symposium will examine Pan-African scholar’s legacy

Jan Carew and Runoko Rashidi
Photo from abibitumikasa

Symposium will examine Pan-African scholar’s legacy

by Hess,Cynthia E — last modified Jun 16, 2010 12:15 PM
Jan. 21, 2010

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The work of Pan-African historian Ivan Van Sertima, known for his claim that Africans visited the New World centuries before Christopher Columbus arrived, will be the focus of a Jan. 28 University of Louisville symposium.

“The Life and Legacy of Ivan Van Sertima” will run from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Ekstrom Library’s Chao Auditorium. UofL’s Pan-African studies department sponsors the free, public event as the 2010 Jan Carew Colloquium.

Carew, a Pan-African scholar and Louisville resident who was a mentor for Van Sertima, also plans to attend the event. Copies of Van Sertima’s writings will be available, and there will be a screening of a video clip about the late scholar.

Speakers will include Jacqueline Van Sertima, Journal of African Civilizations president and Van Sertima’s widow; Runoko Rashidi, “The African Presence in Early Asia” co-editor; and Jose Pimienta-Bey, Berea College’s African and African American studies director and author of “Othello’s Children in the New World: Moorish History and Identity in the African American Experience.”

Van Sertima died last year after a career as a linguist, historian, anthropologist and Rutgers University professor of African studies. He edited the Journal of African Civilizations and founded the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations. Van Sertima may be best known for his 1976 book “They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America,” which challenged the view that the explorer discovered America.

His other publications included “Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern,” “Black Women in Antiquity,” “The African Presence in Early America,” “The African Presence in Early Europe” and “Egypt Revisited.”

For more information, call 502-852-5985 or contact W.S. Tkweme, assistant professor, at


Date-With-A-Book Book Club Chooses "Black Midas" for May 2010

Date with a Book, the book club that focuses on the work of writers from the Caribbean and the Caribbean Diaspora, has chosen Jan Carew's "Black Midas" as their selctoin for May, 23, 2010. 

For more information:  Date-With-A-Book