Rare Book & Manuscript Library
 

Darcus Howe papers, 1965-2008

Summary Information

Abstract

The collection documents the career and personal life of Trinidadian-born Black British activist and journalist Darcus Howe (1943-2017). Howe was best known as a defendant in the 1971 Mangrove Nine trial, a founding member of the Race Today Collective and editor of its journal, Race Today, and a producer of television series and documentary films for the British television station Channel 4. There is also material from the later life of Howe's cousin, the prominent intellectual, postcolonial writer, and activist C. L. R. James (1901-1989).

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1476
Bib ID 7089617 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Howe, Darcus
Title Darcus Howe papers, 1965-2008
Physical Description 13 linear feet (18 boxes; 10 document boxes; 1 half sized document box; 7 record storage cartons)
Language(s) English .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

All original copies of audio / moving image media are closed until reformatting. Commercial materials are not routinely digitized. Email rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Arrangement

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in five series. Materials within each series are arranged in chronological order.

Description

Scope and Contents

The collection contains correspondence, court reports and transcripts, publications and printed ephemera, audio and video recordings, and photographs documenting the career and personal life of Trinidadian-born Black British activist and journalist Darcus Howe (1943-2017). Significant groups of material include documentation of Howe's relationship with his cousin, the postcolonial scholar and activist C. L. R. James, during the last decade of James' life; the 1971 Mangrove Nine Trial, in which Howe was a defendant; Howe's membership in the Race Today Collective (1973-1991); and Howe's journalism career. There is also a small amount of material related to Howe's involvement in the British Black Panther Movement (circa 1970-1973), the New Beginning Movement (1971-1978), and the Notting Hill Carnival.

The collection has a few gaps. There is very little material directly related to Darcus Howe's editorial work on Race Today, such as article solicitation and editing, or journal production and distribution. These records, if surviving, may have remained among the records of the Race Today Collective. There is also almost nothing from the 1981 Brixton uprisings or the Black People's Day of Action organized by Darcus Howe, Leila Hassan, John La Rose, Linton Kwesi Johnson, and other activists in response to the New Cross Massacre. Darcus Howe's participation in the 1970 Black Power revolution in Trinidad and Tobago is not documented, though a folder of material related to his subsequent participation in the New Beginning Movement does include a 1973 speech addressing some of Howe's views on those events.

  • Series I: C. L. R. James, 1974-1990, 2003

    Series I documents Howe's close relationship with and efforts on behalf of his cousin C. L. R. James, from 1974 until shortly after the latter's death in 1989. The series includes audio recordings, transcripts, and photographs of lectures given by C. L. R. James, as well as lectures given in James' honor by other scholars and activists including Grace Lee Boggs, Tim Hector, and Darcus Howe. Among these events are C. L. R. James' 80th Birthday Lectures in 1981 and the opening lectures from the 1986 Focus on C. L. R. James exhibit. Correspondence, photographs, audio recordings, and print and video news coverage document C. L. R. James' 1989 funeral and burial in Trinidad. There is a small amount of correspondence related to Howe's involvement in managing James' personal affairs and settling James' estate. Materials related to the Race Today Collective's 1991 reconstitution as the C. L. R. James Institute are located in Series III.

  • Series II: Politics and Activism, 1969-2008

    Series II contains material related to Darcus Howe's political and community activism outside of his work with the Race Today Collective. It includes publications and printed ephemera related to the British Black Panther Movement. There is a small group of annotated witness statements from a 1969-1970 court case regarding an incident of police brutality toward David Oscar Cadogan. There is also material related to the Mangrove Nine Trial, including newsletters and printed ephemera distributed by community organizations associated with the British Black Panther Movement during the trial, and annotated court records obtained by Howe in 1990 for his own research. Materials created after the Mangrove Nine Trial include correspondence, newsletters and other publications, and speech transcripts related to the Trinidadian New Beginning Movement. There are also various audiovisual recordings and transcripts of speeches made by Darcus Howe and interviews of Darcus Howe. Much of Howe's later writing is located in Series III and IV. However, a 1998 proposal for a never-published memoir, England, My England, is located in this series.

  • Series III: Race Today Collective and C. L. R. James Institute, 1971-1996

    Series III includes material associated with the Race Today Collective and its successor organization, the C. L. R. James Institute. Documentation of the Race Today Collective's activities includes bylaws and budget information from circa 1978, audiotapes of Collective meetings and literature study sessions from the late 1980s, and some Race Today editorial correspondence. The latter comprises primarily reprinting permissions and letters to the editor, as well as routine correspondence related to secretarial work and some general discussion of political issues in Trinidad and Tobago and other former British colonies in the Caribbean and Africa. There is a full run of the journal Race Today and a small number of Race Today Publications monographs. A comparatively large group of material related to the United States' 1983 invasion of Grenada includes diaries kept by Race Today Collective member Gus John and a person called Christine in Carriacou documenting the situation in Grenada. This series also contains four folders of Darcus Howe Action Committee material. Finally, there is material related to the Collective's 1991 dissolution and reconstitution as the C. L. R. James Institute, circa 1991-1996. These include meeting minutes, plans and applications for charity status, and even architectural drawings of a proposed cultural center and cafe. The relationship between this C. L. R. James Institute and the one founded in New York City in 1984—if any—is unclear.

  • Series IV: Journalism, 1965, 1976-2004

    Series IV contains correspondence, interview transcripts, clippings, and audio and video recordings from Darcus Howe's career in journalism. There are some drafts and clippings of Howe's newspaper columns, including "Thinking Aloud," his weekly column in Trinidad and Tobago's Sunday Mirror. The bulk of this series is composed of videotapes of Howe's television work for Channel Four dating from the mid-1980s through the 1990s. These include the Bandung File, a series Howe co-produced with Tariq Ali between 1985 and 1991, and other programs co-produced by Ali and Howe through their Bandung Productions company. Bandung File and Bandung Productions materials are located in Subseries IV.2. Howe's other television work is located in Subseries IV.3. This includes video tapes of Howe's series Devil's Advocate (1992-1996) and his appearances on Live and Direct and The London Programme. There are also audiotapes of interviews, research material, and other paper and audiovisual material used in Howe's television and radio work.

  • Series V: Personal, circa 1961-2000, undated

    Series V is a small group of material containing Darcus Howe's personal and family correspondence, photographs, address book, and a 1988 daily agenda. It also includes programs from funerals and memorial services of Howe's friends and family members and material related to the death of Howe's father, Cipriani Nathaniel Howe.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

All original copies of audio / moving image media are closed until reformatting. Commercial materials are not routinely digitized. Email rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Darcus Howe Papers; Date (if known); Box and Folder (if known); Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.

Related Materials

C.L.R. James Papers Rare Book & Manuscript Library

C.L.R. James Institute Records, 1938-2002, 1939-2004 Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Anna Grimshaw Papers Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Constance Webb Papers Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Carnival material, 1972-2006: material related to the Notting Hill Carnival in London. Darcus Howe was chair of the Notting Hill Carnival Development Committee in 1977. At the George Padmore Institute, London, UK.

New Cross Massacre Campaign, 1980-1985: includes records of the New Cross Massacre Action Committee, on which Darcus Howe, Leila Hassan, John La Rose, Linton Kwesi Johnson, and other Race Today Collective members served. At the George Padmore Institute, London, UK.

British Black Panther Movement Oral Histories: Darcus and Leila Howe: These oral histories were recorded in 2014 as part of the Photofusion project on the British Black Panther movement. At the Black Cultural Archives, London, UK.

Photographs of the Black Panther Movement: Includes several photographs of demonstrations in support of the Mangrove Nine during their trial. At the Black Cultural Archives, London, UK.

Accrual

No additional material expected.

Existence and Location of Copies

Materials related to the Mangrove 9 Trial (Box 3, Folders 10-16 and Box 4, Folders 1-9) and printed issues of Race Today (Box 11, Folders 12-20) were digitized with funding from a Columbia University Libraries Primary Resources Grant, 2021. They are currently available for use on site at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Darcus Howe and Leila Hassan Howe, January 2009.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers processed Alix Ross 2011.

Finding aid written Alix Ross 03/--/2011.

The collection was reprocessed and the finding aid was revised by Celeste Brewer in July-September 2021. During reprocessing, the collection's arrangement scheme was altered in order to more clearly convey the relationship between its contents and Darcus Howe's activities and interests. Scope and content notes were significantly expanded to provide information about the individuals, organizations, events, political movements, and activities that the collection documents. Some folder titles were changed and a small amount of material was physically rearranged, again with the aim of clarifying their relationship to Darcus Howe's life. These include materials from the Mangrove Management Committee and Mangrove Community Association (circa 1971-1986), which were previously identified as Mangrove Nine Trial documents, and materials in folders whose titles only identified their format (e.g. "General--Pamphlets" or "Announcements and Flyers"). Finally, a full inventory of audiovisual media was created to facilitate digitization and integrated into the series that best reflect the items' context of creation.

Revision Description

2011-08-30 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

2020-10-13 Series III. box list created with enhanced description. cml

2021-09-17 Revised arrangement, scope and contents, and container list uploaded. CLB

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Genre/Form

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Audiocassettes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Printed Ephemera Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Videotapes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

Subject

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Ali, Tariq Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Black Panther Movement Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Channel Four (Great Britain) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Court records Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Howe, Darcus Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Howe, Leila Hassan, 1948- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
James, C. L. R (Cyril Lionel Robert), 1901-1989 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
London (England) -- Race relations Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Oilfields Workers' Trade Union Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Police -- England Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Police misconduct Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Postcolonialism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Race Today Collective Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Richards, Viv, 1952- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
West Indians -- Great Britain Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Darcus Howe (1943-2017) was a Black British activist and journalist best known as a defendant in the 1971 Mangrove Nine trial, a founding member of the Race Today Collective and editor of its journal, Race Today, and a producer of television series and documentary films for the British television station Channel 4. Howe, christened Leighton Rhett Radford, was born in Moruga, Southern Trinidad, on February 26, 1943. He was one of five siblings. His parents, Cipriani Nathaniel Howe, an Anglican Priest, and Lucille Howe, both taught at the Eckles Village Anglican School, which Howe attended during his primary school years. In 1955 Howe received an "exhibition" or full scholarship to Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain, one of the oldest secondary schools in Trinidad. He graduated from QRC in 1959 and began work with the Post Office. In 1962, at the age of 19, Howe left for Britain. He resided in London for most of his adult life.

In London Howe worked first, as he had in Trinidad, in the Post Office. He also studied law at London's Middle Temple but abandoned the classroom before completing his degree, for a career in journalism and in activism. Although never called to the English bar, Howe's legal studies paid off handsomely in his many subsequent arrests, trials and brushes with the law. Upon leaving Middle Temple Howe returned briefly to Trinidad, where he edited Vanguard, the journal of the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union, and worked with organizers of Trinidad's 1970 Black Power revolution. By the end of 1970, Howe had returned to London permanently. He became a British citizen in 1988.

During the early 1970s Howe was active in Britain's Black Panther Movement. When the Movement dissolved in 1972, he directed his energies to the work of the Race Today Collective. The Collective separated from the Institute of Race Relations in 1973 in order to transform the publication Race Today from an academic journal into a news magazine covering and supporting radical Black British politics. Howe (1973-1985) and Leila Hassan (1985-1988) served as editors of Race Today. Members and affiliates of the Race Today Collective, which reflected both the geographic breadth of Britain's former colonial reach and the depth of diversity then in London, included: Indian-born British writer Farrukh Dhondy; Zanzibarian co-editor of Race Today Leila Hassan; Jamaican dub—or reggae—poet Linton Kwesi Johnson; Grenada native, and the first Black education director for the London borough of Hackney—or for any borough, Gus John; as well as Howe. Over the years the Collective expanded its editorial operation, publishing pamphlets and books along with Race Today, and co-sponsoring the International Book Fair of Radical, Black and Third World Books. The Collective dissolved in 1991.

Notting Hill's Mangrove Cafe, established in 1968 by Frank Critchlow, served as something of a community center, a home base for West Indian political radicals and as a lightning rod for the London police who raided the cafe with some regularity. After one too many raids, demonstrators marched on the Notting Hill Police Station in August of 1970 protesting "police attacks on Black people's homes and the places [they] frequent." Howe, Barbara Beese, Rupert Boyce, Frank Critchlow, Rhodan Gordon, Anthony Inniss, Rothwell Kentish, Althea Lecointe and Godfrey Millette—the Mangrove Nine—were arrested during the demonstration and charged with "riot and affray," among other charges. Howe and Lecointe chose to defend themselves. It was not Howe's first arrest and it would not be his last trial, but it was his first attempt to defend himself in court. Following a 55 days-long trial in Old Bailey, Howe was acquitted on all counts. In his summary, Judge Edward Clarke noted that the trial had "regrettably shown evidence of racial hatred on both sides." This was the first judicial acknowledgment of racial prejudice existing among the ranks of London's Metropolitan Police. The Mangrove 9 Trial was far from Darcus Howe's only encounter with the police. Throughout the 1970s, he was repeatedly arrested on various charges which were either dropped or concluded with Howe's acquittal in court. The Race Today Collective formed a Darcus Howe Action Committee to organize community support for Howe in response to these arrests.

In January 1981, thirteen young Black Londoners were killed in a catastrophic fire at a birthday party in New Cross. Howe, Leila Hassan, John La Rose, Linton Kwesi Johnson, and other activists organized a New Cross Massacre Action Committee to demand justice for the victims of the fire, which was widely suspected to be the result of arson. On March 2, 1981, thousands marched in a Black People's Day of Action organized by the committee. While the march was catalyzed by investigators announcing that there was no evidence of arson at New Cross, its participants also protested decades of racist harassment and injustice inflicted on Black British people by the police. Youth uprisings against harsh and discriminatory policing tactics occurred in nearby Brixton in April, followed by additional uprisings in Handsworth, Birmingham, Chapeltown, Leeds, and Toxteth, Liverpool in July 1981. Howe reported on these uprisings in Race Today, and published his collected work on the topic in his 1988 book From Bobby to Babylon: Blacks and the British Police.

Howe's journalism ventures expanded into television in the 1980s. From 1985 to 1991, Howe and Tariq Ali co-produced documentaries and interviewed prominent political figures around the globe for the Bandung File, which aired on Britain's Channel Four Television. The program Devil's Advocate, with Howe as a host, followed the demise of the Bandung File. Later documentaries by Howe included White Tribe, Who You Calling a Nigger?, Son of Mine, and in 2009 What's Killing Darcus Howe?, an attempt to raise awareness, particularly among Black men, of prostate cancer.

In print Howe contributed regularly to The Guardian, The Times, The Yorkshire Post and The New Statesman; by the 1990s Howe wrote a weekly column, "Thinking Aloud" for The Sunday Mirror.

Howe was a first cousin, once removed, of C. L. R. James (1901-1989). Their common ancestor, Joshua Rudder, was Howe's great-grandfather, and James' grandfather. Rudder's children included sisters Florrie—Howe's maternal grandmother—and Bessie—James' mother—thereby rendering Howe's mother Lucille and James first cousins. James and Howe had a very close relationship, and frequently referred to one another as uncle and nephew. Howe shared James' politics, activism, and love of the sport cricket. From the early 1980s until his death in 1989, C. L. R. James lived in the rooms of the Race Today Collective in London.

Howe had seven children. In 1989 Howe and his long-time partner, Leila Hassan, were married. Howe was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, an experience which informed his documentary What's Killing Darcus Howe? Treatment was successful, and the cancer went into remission in 2009. Darcus Howe died at his home in Streatham, London, on April 1, 2017.