JAMES BALDWIN: LITERARY HERO

September 26, 2018 at 5:00 am

As The Great American Read goes in search of heroes, we head to Harlem to learn more about literary giant and social activist, James Baldwin.

Aired on September 25, 2018.

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THE GREAT AMERICAN READ HAS
BROUGHT ME HERE TO HARLEM, THE
BIRTH PLACE OF PROLIFIC WRITER
AND HERO, JAMES BALDWIN.
HIS 1952 NEW YORK TIMES BEST
SELLER LIST, A BETTER COUNTRY
LED HIM TO 100 MOST LOVED
NOVELS.
TIME AND EDUCATION HAVE CHANGED
MUCH OF HARLEM FROM THE 1930s
AND '40s.
THIS BUILDING BEHIEBD ME WAS A
PLACE WHERE COMMON THINKERS ALSO
CONG REIGATED.
IT STILL REMAIN AS RESOURCE FOR
THE BLACK EXPERIENCE IN AMERICA.
AND HOME TO THE LARGEST
COLLECTION OF ORIGINAL WORKS FOR
BALDWIN WHICH MAKES IT THE BEST
PLACE TO EXPLORE HIS ROLE IN THE
CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AS WELL AS
THE GAY RIGHTS MOVEMENT.
LET'S GO INSIDE.
>> THIS IS THE POPULAR
EXHIBITION ABOUT THE BLACK POWER
MOVEMENT.
BUTTONS, FLYERS AND EVEN WANTED
POSTERS FROM THE LATE 1960s.
ON THE WALL IS ALSO A PICTURE OF
AUTHOR, AND CIVIL RIGHTS
ACTIVIST, JAMES BALDWIN.
KEVIN YOUNG TOOK ME ON A TOUR OF
THE CENTER AND SHOWED OFF HIS
COLLECTIONS OF WORK BY WHAT SOME
WOULD CALL A HERO OF HUMANITY.
>> HERE'S A WANTED POSTER WHICH
I THINK IS A REALLY POWERFUL
POSTER.
THAT'S ANGELA DAVIS.
AND HERE WE HAVE JAMES BALDWIN
WITH BOBBY SEAL IN THE SAN
FRANCISCO COUNTY JAIL.
AND BALDWIN'S RELATIONSHIP TO
THE MOVEMENT I THINK IS REALLY
INTERESTING.
IT'S COMPLICATED, IT'S CRITICAL,
SUPPORTIVE.
IT'S ALL THE THING I COULDN'T
SEE EXPECT OUT OF BALDWIN
BECAUSE BALDWIN IS OF COURSE
ENTRANCED FOR MOST OF THIS TIME
BUT HE'S WRITING AND THINKING
ABOUT THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
AND THAT'S EXTENDED LIFE IN THE
BLACK POWER MOVEMENT IN THE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
>> IT IS AN HONORABLE TRUTH ALL
MEN ARE ARE BROTHERS.
THAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE.
YOU CAN'T TAKE IT FROM THERE,
YOU CAN'T TAKE IT LAT.
>> HE WAS GREAT AT TALKING ABOUT
BROTHER HOOD AND WE'RE ALL
BROTHERS AND SISTERS.
WE'RE ALL COMMUNICATING AND ALSO
ENTER RELATED.
HE'S TRYING TO HELP US
UNDERSTAND THE WAY SEXUALITY AND
RACE ARE TOGETHER AND HAVE LONG
BEEN THAT WAY AND I THINK THAT
CONECATIVITY AND CONSISTENCY IS
VERY IMPORTANT.
AND YOU SEE IT IN HIS ESSAYS.
>> ONE OF HIS BEST SELLING WORKS
OF FICTION IS SET IN THE EARLY
1960s SPANNING HARLEM AND
FRANCE.
MANY THEMES THAT WERE TAB OO TO
TALK ABOUT, SUCH AS INTERRACIAL
DATING.
HE'S TALKED ABOUT THE PAIN AND
JOY OF BEING IN LOVE AND
REMEMBER THIS IS NEARLY 70 YEAR
BUSINESS OR THE SUPREME COURT
RULES TO GIVE SAME-SEX COUPLES
THE RIGHT TO MARRY.
>> I KNOW I LOVE PEOPLE AND
PEOPLE LOVE ME.
>> IT WAS A BOOK I READ IN
COLLEGE.
I THINK IT WAS VERY MUCH A BOOK
THAT SPOKE TO ME AT THE TIME BUT
IT THINGS ABOUT IDENTITY IN MANY
DIFFERENT WAYS.
IT THINKS ABOUT THE WAYS THE
DEATH OF A BLACK MAN IN THIS
CASE, IN THE NOVEL, CAN EFFECT
OTHER PEOPLE.
IT CERTAINLY IS THINKING ABOUT
THE WAY BLACK LIVES MATTER AND
IN THAT WAY IT'S A REALLY IN
INTERESTING TIE TO OUR TIME.
>> WE MAKE AN ACTIVE FAITH
RISKING MY WOMAN, MY CHILDREN IN
SOME IDEALISM I HAVE NEVER SEEN.
>> MANY OF HIS FIERY INSIGHT
SAID ARE BASED ON HIS TIME IN
NEW YORK.
IT WAS HIS WINDOW TO THE OUTSIDE
WORLD AND HE WANTED TO BE A PART
OF THE AND WRITE ABOUT IT.
AND NOW THE VERY SAME PLACE
JAMES BALDWIN'S SEEDS OF
GREATNESS WERE PLANTED.
>> THESE ARE SOME OF MY
FAVORITES TOO.
THESE ARE NOTES FOR A NOVEL HE
WAS WORKING.
HERE IS MAKING NOTES ABOUT THE
NOVEL ITSELF.
THESE TWO HE CLEARLY WAS AT A
BAR OR A CLUB THAT HAD A
TWO-DRIRNG MINIMUM PER PERSON
PER SET AND THIS ONE HAS A HOTEL
STATIONARY AND IT GIFBS YOU A
SENSE OF HIS TRAVELS, OF WHAT HE
WAS UP TO BUT HE WAS WRITING ALL
THE TIME.
SOME ARGUE THAT PROLIFIC WRITER
THAT DIED IN THE 1980s, THAT HIS
POPULARITY HAS GROWN.
>> I THINK BALDWIN WAS ALWAYS
CENTRAL TO OUR UNDERSTANDING OF
OURSELVES SOME OF THE IS PEOPLE
HAVE REDISCOVERED HIS WRITINGS
AND SEEN HOW PROFETIC, THEY ARE.
AND YOU GET TO SEE BALDWIN'S
WRITING UP CLOSE FROM HIS FIRST
NOVEL ALL THE WAY TO HIS LAST
WORKS, ONE OF HIS LAST PIECES
WAS A PLAY CALLED "THE WELCOME
TABLE" THAT NEVER GOT PRODUCED.
AND TO HAVE THAT SCRIPT AND LOOK
IT OVER IS REALLY POWERFUL.
AND YOU GET TO SEE IN A BOOK
LIKE "ANOTHER COUNTRY" THE WAY
HE WORKED.
HIS FIRST THOUGHT WAS OFTEN HIS
BEST THOUGHT BUT IT'S BECAUSE
HE'S THINKING AND THINKING AND
THINKING.
THEY'RE THE CLEANEST MANUSCRIPTS
I'VE SEEN BECAUSE HE'S SO GOOD
AT CONJURING THE BIBLICAL
LANGUAGE.
THE THOUGHTS OF THE CHURCH, THE
THOUGHTS OF DARE I SAY A PROFIT,
SOMEONE THINKING ABOUT THE
FUTURE BUT WHERE WE ARE NOW.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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