Friday, April 15, 2005

Born in Fresno, California, the fifth of six children, Constance was a bright girl for whom perhaps the defining moment of her childhood was the discovery of her father's racism. Constance's sense of social justice was ignited by this, and other discoveries, and at the age of 15 she joined the Socialist party.

Three years later, Webb travelled to Los Angeles to listen to the "elegant" C L R James lecturing on The Negro Question. The 37-year-old Trinidadian skilfully engineered the opportunity to spend a few hours alone with Webb before pressing on to Mexico, where he was scheduled to meet Leon Trotsky.

According to Webb's memoir, Not Without Love (2003), James conducted himself as the perfect gentleman and spoke about race issues in the US. For the next six years, James maintained a regular correspondence with her, which amounted to more than 200 letters, published in 1996 in the volume Special Delivery.

Although James barely knew Webb, his emotional investment in her was huge, and the openness and freedom with which he shared his ideas leaves the reader in no doubt as to his profound love for her.

R.I.P. Constance Webb.

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