James Baldwin Collected Essays

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Passages from this unfinished, unpublished manuscript, titled Remember This House, form the basis for I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, Raoul Peck’s masterful, exhilarating documentary on Baldwin, American racism, and our threadbare construct of lies and amnesia implemented daily to forestall national self-immolation.

years ago, when I was fourteen, I was given James Baldwin’s second collection of essays, “Nobody Knows My Name” (1961), by his friend and my mentor the writer Owen Dodson, who was one of the more ebullient survivors of the Harlem Renaissance.

James Baldwin was a uniquely prophetic voice in American letters.

His brilliant and provocative essays made him the literary voice of the Civil Rights Era, and they continue to speak with powerful urgency to us today, whether in the swirling debate over the Black Lives Matter movement or in the words of Raoul Peck's documentary "I Am Not Your Negro." Edited by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, the Library of America's Collected Essays is the most comprehensive gathering of Baldwin's nonfiction ever published.

People are not, for example, terribly anxious to be equal (equal, after all, to what and to whom? Furthermore, I have met only a very few people—and most of these were not American—who had any real desire to be free….

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We are controlled here by our confusion, far more than we know.” — James Baldwin, “Down at the Cross,” from The Fire Next Time In the late 1970s, James Baldwin began work on a book about three of his friends who had been murdered: Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X.

Combining politics, prophecy, and passion, Baldwin's essays are truly as thought-provoking today as they were some 30 years ago. "One writes," he stated, "out of one thing only--one's own experience. James Baldwin was a uniquely prophetic voice in American letters.

About the Author: With the novel Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), a distillation of his own experiences as a preacher’s son in 1930s Harlem, and the essay collection Notes of a Native Son (1955), James Baldwin (1924-1987) established himself as a prophetic voice of his era. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give." With singular eloquence and unblinking sharpness of observation he lived up to his credo: "I want to be an honest man and a good writer." The classic The Fire Next Time (1963), perhaps the most influential of his writings, is his most penetrating analysis of America's racial divide and an impassioned call to "end the racial change the history of the world." The later volumes No Name in the Street (1972) and The Devil Finds Work (1976) chart his continuing response to the social and political turbulence of his era and include his remarkable works of film criticism. His brilliant and provocative essays made him the literary voice of the Civil Rights Era, and they continue to speak with powerful urgency to us today, whether in the swirling debate over the Black Lives Matter movement or in the words of Raoul Peck's documentary "I Am Not Your Negro." Edited by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, the Library of America's Collected Essays is the most comprehensive gathering of Baldwin's nonfiction ever published.

And what compounded the guilt was the vague suspicion that in leaving them behind I would be leaving my blackness behind as well, to join the white world—a world that more often than not hurt and baffled my mother and siblings.

Baldwin understood these things, because he’d survived them.

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