His face, along with that of his friend and neighbour George Padmore, who lived at 22 Cranleigh Street in Mornington Crescent, has been seen smiling down from posters in every school and library in Camden for the last few weeks to celebrate Black History Month.
Radical or not, he never, like so many married male writers of his age, found the time to learn to type. His widow, Selma James, no political slouch herself, was his PA, the one who typed and corrected all his manuscripts. "There were no computers in those days, so if you wanted to change one little thing, you had to retype the whole manuscript," she recalled.
Mrs James was born and brought up in New York where her father was a lorry driver and union leader. "Yes," she said, "he was a teamster before the Mafia got involved and ruined everything. We had a lot of trouble with the Mafia."
Her mother doesn't sound like she took much trouble from anyone. "She used to help people who fell behind with their rent and got evicted. It was the Depression, whole families would be thrown out on to the street. She was all of five foot nothing but used to carry their ice boxes - no refrigerators in those days - back into the house on her own."
Selma first met CLR James when she was 14 and her elder sister introduced them. Three years later she married a machinist and moved with him to Los Angeles where she became a housewife and mother of a baby boy. Her parents were not thrilled. "They wanted me to go to university," she said. "But I didn't want to ruin my brain." She still doesn't regret not having attended university. "Neither I nor Nello (CLR's nickname) had a degree - he had a few honorary ones," she said, adding that it had not stood in the way of her education.
Moving to Hampstead was a mixed blessing, politically. She loved the NHS but was less thrilled with the class system. "I hated the way working-class women were not allowed to use the shops in Oxford Street. Clothes came in one size for working class women in the '50s and you either took them in or let them out. If women who could not afford to have clothes which fitted came up to the counter, they would not be served. The woman next to them would be. I saw it happen."
Despite growing up in a political family Mrs lames said she learned all her politics from CLR, the basic tenet of which was that if socialism were to succeed it had to come from and be led by the working classes. Until CLR came along, she said, plenty of people were talking to working-class people, but very few were listening.
"I learned about dialectic materialism from him," she said. "I remember thinking it was the most exciting thing that I had ever heard."
Her eyes opened and the memories of raising a child in poverty in Los Angeles fresh on her mind, she wrote her first pamphlet, A Woman's Place, with her husband's encouragement.
"I said I didn't know how to write a pamphlet. He told me to get a shoe box and every time I had an idea to write it down and put it in the shoe box, and when it was full there would be enough for a pamphlet. And it sold very well."
That pamphlet formed the seeds of the International Wages for Housework Campaign, which she founded in 1972 and 30 years on is still based at the Crossroads Women's Centre in Kentish Town.
When I arrived, she was at the keyboard, surrounded by three other women, banging out a collective SOS for Women Against Rape, whose grant has been cut.
Has anything changed since she first argued that women's unpaid work should be included in every country's GNP? Yes, she said. Women were working even harder.
"Women are the carers, the nurturers, put the food on the table, make sure the shirts are clean for the next day, keep the children alive and have them lined up when the men come home. But still their work is not included in the GNP. It still doesn't count."
Would CLR be pleased to see Camden as it is today, or depressed that so little had changed, I ask. "It's not like that," she said. "You don't hitch your wagon to a passing star when you decide to change the world. You are grateful when you make some progress, but you don't expect it to happen tomorrow.
"In 1999 the military budget of the entire world was $800 billion and the UN had worked out that poverty could be wiped out worldwide - for $80 billion. If we could just each do without that one Trident."
Selma James will introduce a video on her personal view of CLR James as a political leader at the Crossroads Women's Centre, 230a Kentish Town Road (corner of Caversham Road) tonight at 7pm.