Raul Peck’s deservedly acclaimed documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro” is in limited release and, therefore, isn’t available everywhere, at least, not just yet. For those of you who are unable to see the movie, here is a collection of video clips of James Baldwin’s appearances, interspersed with quotes from his writings, to tide you over. There is a companion book to the movie, as well.
On Being White… And Other Lies, by James Baldwin
“The crisis of leadership in the white community is remarkably terrifying – because there is, in fact, no white community.
This may seem an enormous statement – and it is. I’m willing to be challenged. I’m also willing to attempt to spell it out.
My frame of reference is, of course, America, or that potion of the North American continent that calls itself America. And it means I am speaking, essentially, of the European vision of the universe. It is a vision as remarkable for what it pretends to include as for what it remorselessly diminishes, demolishes or leaves totally out of account.”
James Baldwin: The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings
James Baldwin at The Florida Forum, Miami, 1963 (25 min.)
Baldwin appeared on this televised panel the week after Governor George Wallace, right after violence broke out on the campus of the University of Alabama as it was being integrated and the first Black students arrived.
Hollywood Roundtable: Civil Rights, 1963
Participants: James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, Joseph Mankiewicz. Moderated by David Schoenburn.
“When you speak of Peking, and you speak of Moscow, and you speak of other centers in the world where a demonstration like today could not take place, yes, I accept that. but I also say that it is long since past the time when we can measure our own conscience and our own sense of morality based on what some decayed society refuses to give its own. It is like arguing with the present administration as to what we feel they did or did not do in relation to the civil rights struggle because they were measuring it based on the previous administration.”
“What we’ve been doing, in effect, is we’ve been letting the Negro have his dream – say, “go on dreaming!” Well the time has come, I think, and we’ve shown today, to stop dreaming this dream and wake up to it!”
“The first step probably has to be, somewhere in the American conscience. the American white republic has to ask itself why it was necessary for them to invent the nigger. You know, I am not a nigger. You know, I never called myself one. But one comes into the world and the world decides you are this for its own reasons and it is very important for the American, in terms of the future, in terms of its health, the transformation we are all seeking, that he face this question. That he needed the nigger for something.”
The Dick Cavett Show, June 13, 1968
Responding to Yale philosophy professor, Paul Weiss,
The Price of The Ticket, PBS Documentary, 1989
James Baldwin’s Nigger, 1968
Take This Hammer, Oakland, 1963
A Rap On Race: James Baldwin and Margaret Mead, 1971
The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity
James Baldwin interview
James Baldwin: Mavis On Four Interview, BBC 4
James Baldwin: If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is? – July 29, 1979, New York Times
“Now, I do not know what white Americans would sound like if there had never been any black people in the United States, but they would not sound the way they sound. Jazz, for example, is a very specific sexual term, as in jazz me, baby, but white people purified it into the Jazz Age. Sock it to me, which means, roughly, the same thing, has been adopted by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s descendants with no qualms or hesitations at all, along with let it all hang out and right on! Beat to his socks which was once the black’s most total and despairing image of poverty, was transformed into a thing called the Beat Generation, which phenomenon was, largely, composed of uptight, middle- class white people, imitating poverty, trying to get down, to get with it, doing their thing, doing their despairing best to be funky, which we, the blacks, never dreamed of doing–we were funky, baby, like funk was going out of style.”
I Am Articulate, Jamila Lyiscott
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