The 20th Eric Williams Memorial Lecture, held by the Eric Williams Memorial Collection, Research Library, Archives and Museum at UWI, St Augustine will be held for the first time online for an international audience.
Williams' daughter, Erica Williams-Connell, director of the Memorial Collection, told Newsday this in a telephone interview from the US last Monday.
There is another Eric Williams Memorial Lecture held by the Central Bank, but is not affiliated with the Memorial Collection.
She said the lecture is meant for everyone, especially non-academics, because educating the average person was the type of work her father set out to do.
"Eric Williams began his public life with public education. He wasn't speaking to 20,000 academics, but laypeople with a primary school education."
For 19 years the memorial lecture was given at Florida International University, by scholars such as Dr Hollis "Chalkdust" Liverpool, who spoke about Williams, Carnival and culture, and UWI Vice Chancellor Prof Hilary Beckles, who spoke about reparations.
The lecture has now moved to the University of Texas in Austin. Williams-Connell described the annual lecture in Florida she as a true "Caribbean experience" which included live pan performances and Caribbean food being served. Though this year's lecture would not have this, she is pleased it will be accessible to the Caribbean diaspora.
From April 9, the memorial lecture committee will release one interview a week with a prior speaker.
She said the lecture in Florida used to have a loyal following of non-academic people who were genuinely interested in Williams' life and legacy. Now that the lecture is online, those people in Miami who regularly attended would still get a chance to hear the lecture.
The University of Texas will also host an online museum with photo galleries and excerpts of Williams' work and the earlier lectures.
Williams died 40 years ago, on March 29, 1981. March 22 marked the 23rd anniversary of the establishment of the Eric Williams Research Library, Archives and Museum, which is housed in the West Indiana section of the Alma Jordan Library at UWI, St Augustine.
Before the pandemic, the museum would be open twice a month on Saturdays to the public.
Williams' personal library contained more than 7,000 books. The research library's houses most of Williams' personal collection as well as his own published books and research paper.
While access to the Alma Jordan Library is typically for UWI staff and students, members of the public who want to do research can make an appointment to access the collection.
The collection was named in 1999 as part of Unesco's Memory of the World Register. When UWI reopens to the public, Williams-Connell said the public can access the collection again.
"You can't just wander into the library. You can't access the library. A person can sit in the reading room and the attendant would bring what you wanted to research. It is a reference library, and the books and papers cannot be borrowed, but copies of some can be made."
Williams-Connell describes the research library as "the English-speaking Caribbean’s first attempt at establishing an entity akin to a US presidential library."
The library introduced an oral history project with hundreds of interviews and calypsos about Eric Williams. It has been the subject of academic papers, lectures and books and has received multiple awards and recognition.
The collection’s scholarly foundation centres on Williams’s scholarship such as his book Capitalism and Slavery, which was first published by the University of North Carolina Press in 1944 and has never been out of print. A third edition of the book was released last week. It has been translated into nine languages, including Turkish, Korean, Chinese, Russian and Japanese and is now being translated into Dutch. It was released in audio format on Audible on April 1.
Before the pandemic, guests of the Memorial Collection museum included Venkaiah Naidu, vice president of India, and Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The collection, Williams-Connell believes, continues to demonstrate to the younger generation the importance of history. She said it is a model for cultural heritage institutions across the Caribbean, including the Central Bank, the College of the Bahamas, and the H Lavity Stoutt Community College in the British Virgin Islands.
The library, archives and museum are earmarked to be moved to the Old Public Library on Knox Street opposite Woodford Square.
"Eric Williams began his public education lectures at the 'University of Woodford Square.' He began his public life at the library with his lectures and it became so huge the crowd could not hold him there and he had to move to Woodford Square, which he then dubbed the University of Woodford Square."
She believes the library and archives are largely responsible for a resurgence of interest in Williams’ intellectual and political contributions.