New Criticals

James Baldwin: 1968

On August 19th, BAM screened two James Baldwin films. The first was a lecture/panel discussion. In the other, Baldwin narrates Harlem.

The first thing someone asked James Baldwin in 1968, as he stood in front of a group of radical West Indian students in London, was why do you use the word negro? We’re black.

Baldwin said, my mother called herself much worse names and she managed to raise dignified children. He said Harlem in the 30s were tough. He hid in the library. He kept his head down.  He spent his days in quiet. Once, when his father couldn’t stand, he propped him on his shoulders and walked him home. When his father died, he missed him. 

Then a white man stood up and said is there any place for me? in the black power movement? Some people laughed-- this large, gray-haired man with a strong accent. Dick Gregory, suave and seated next to Baldwin, said black isn’t a color, it’s an attitude. John Brown was blacker than lots of black people.