From Francis Williams in the first quarter of the 18th century to Phillis Wheatley in 1773 to C. L. R. James in 1932, to Sam Selvon and George Lamming in 1950, they pack their manuscripts and head to the Mother Country seeking the approval of the Colonialist Publisher, carrying a dream that cannot come true for the Black Colonial on this side of the ocean, certainly not in a little island where all too often people think the only artists are calypsonians or reggae stars. I can envision those budding writers setting out on what Lamming called their "journey to an expectation," boarding the ship, clutching their sheafs of paper, much more valuable than the letters of introduction and the clothes and whatever other baggage they carry. This manuscript they have sweated over, this is their life, this is their story that the world is waiting to read - if only the powers that be in England place their stamp of approval. The twentieth century writers had sometimes seen their poems and short stories printed in an often irregular quarterly literary magazine like Bim, Trinidad, The Beacon, and Kyk-over-al, or in some little island weekly newspaper like the Trinidad Guardian and its Guardian Weekly - but what were such banal sheets where people were likely to pay more attention to the obituary notices than their poems! How could publication in these rags compare with the likes of a McGraw Hill, a Wingate, or a MacGibbon and Kee! Now, and only now, were they on their way to seek the approval that really mattered. How I have imagined Phillis Wheatley on that trip! Did she share with those other passengers who would deign to speak with the young Black girl the substance of her most protected baggage? How I relish the story of C. L. R., on his way to the Mother Country with his "papers," among which was the draft of Minty Alley, written on red paper.

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1997

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 1997, University of Central Arkansas. This article first appeared in Journal of Caribbean Literatures: 1:1 (1997), 49-51.

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