James Baldwin Essays

James Baldwin Essays

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James Baldwin was a man who wrote an exceptional amount of essays. He enticed audiences differing in race, sexuality, ethnic background, government preference and so much more. Each piece is a circulation of emotions and a teeter-totter on where he balances personal experiences and worldly events to the way you feel. Not only did he have the ability to catch readers’ attention through writing, but he also appeared on television a few times.

Boston’s local public television station WGBH, under the leadership of Hartford Gunn, presented an array of educational and cultural programming. Similar to an earlier interview, in a 1963 taping of “The Negro and the American Promise,” Baldwin is interviewed by Dr. Kenneth Clark. This happened just months after Alabama’s governor, George Wallace, expressed his support of “segregation forever” (qtd. in PBS Online). To inflect the possibility that blacks were not as equal or fairly treated as whites in the mid-twentieth century, two very different African Americans were brought on air. Malcolm X based his interview on historical and present references, but James Baldwin took a more personal approach.

As a grown black male Baldwin had encompassed a range of experiences, both horrifying and gratuitous. Those occurrences most treacherous were a focal point when he adds that, “It doesn’t matter any longer what you do to me; you can put me in jail, you can kill me. By the time I was 17, you’d done everything that you could do to me” (“The Negro” 2). Reflecting back on “Down at the Cross” for a moment, Baldwin starts by explaining the metamorphosis of both the black girls and boys. Most of his friends became pimps and whores, and the b...


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...erance for those who are disrespectful, but realizes that people can and hopefully will change and that we need each other to change. The New York Times described the James Baldwin segment as "a television experience that seared the conscience" (qtd. in PBS Online). In one instance Baldwin makes a hearty and honest “can’t we all get along” statement. “In short, we, the black and the white, deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation – if we are really, that is, to achieve our identity, our maturity as men and women” (Baldwin 342).

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. “Down at the Cross.” 1962. James Baldwin: Collected Essays. Ed.

Toni Morrison. New York: Library of America, 1998. 296-347.

“The Negro and the American Promise.” Citizen King. 2004. PBS Online.

10 Mar. 2004 < http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/mlk/sfeature/sf_video.html>.

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