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University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst

W.E.B. Du Bois Department

Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, Emeritus Professor


Brief Bio

EMTEkwueme Michael Thelwell was in 1970 the founding chairman of the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has been a member of the faculty ever since. He is currently Professor of Literature and Writing. The Jamaican born writer, activist, educator, intellectual received his early education at Jamaica College. He came to the United States in 1959 to attend Howard University and went on to do his graduate work at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Thelwell was active in the non-violent Civil Rights Movement, participating in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). Thelwell's anti-apartheid activism in the 1980s resulted in successful legislation enacting a law against corporate tax write-offs for U.S. based corporations paying taxes to the apartheid regime in South Africa. He considers this law his most effective and consequential political achievement. In addition to his political achievements, Thelwell also was a senior advisor for the television series, Eyes on the Prize, Part II. As a writer of fiction as well as of influential essays, Professor Thelwell's work has been published nationally and internationally in journals and magazines including the Black Scholar, The Massachusetts Review, Temps Moderne, the Partisan Review, Presence Africaine (Paris), The New York Times, and African Commentary. His novel The Harder They Come (1980) has become a Jamaican classic, and his political and literary essays are collected in Duties, Pleasures and Conflicts (1987). Thelwell's literary awards include fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Society for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Centennial Medal of the Institute of Jamaica. After the death of Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) in 1998, Ekwueme Michael Thelwell prepared Carmichael's memoirs for publication. The long awaited memoir of the controversial civil rights leader and Pan-Africanist revolutionary was published under the title Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (2003). Professor Thelwell is presently about his work as the Moor of Pelham, MA.

See also his biography by the National Library of Jamaica and link to Daily Gleaner essay by Yulande Lindsay:



"Michael Thelwell - Giants in the Earth," a lecture at Colgate University on YouTube


Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael [Kwame Ture] (Scribner Press 2003)

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"H. Rap Brown/Jamil Al-Amin: A Profoundly American Story." From article in March 18, 2002 edition of The Nation.

Duties, Pleasures, and Conflicts (University of Massachusetts Press 1987)
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The Harder They Come (Grove Press 1980)

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