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Published: Vintage - February 7th, 2017
To compose his stunning documentary film I Am Not Your Negro, acclaimed filmmaker Raoul Peck mined James Baldwin’s published and unpublished works, selecting passages from his books, essays, letters, notes, and interviews that are every bit as incisive and pertinent now as they have ever been. Weaving these texts together, Peck brilliantly imagines the book that Baldwin never wrote (Remember This House). In his final year, Baldwin had envisioned a book about his three assassinated associates: Medgar Evers (1963), Malcolm X (1965), and Martin Luther King, Jr (1968). His deeply personal notes for the project have never been published before. Peck’s film, I’m Not Your Negro, uses them to jump through time, juxtaposing Baldwin’s private words with his public statements, in a blazing examination of the tragic history of white supremacy/race in America.
…I missed the style—
that style possessed by no other people in the world.
I missed the way the dark face closes,
the way the dark eyes watch,
and the way, when a dark face opens,
a light seems to go everywhere…
His spoken prose.
I don’t know if white Christians hate Negroes or not, but I know we have a Christian church which is white and a Christian church which is black.
I don’t know whether the labor unions and their bosses really hate me—
that doesn’t matter—but I know I’m not in their unions.
I don’t know whether the real estate lobby has anything against black people, but I know
the real estate lobby is keeping me in the ghetto.
I don’t know if the board of education hates black people,
but I know the textbooks they give my children to read and the schools we have to go to.
Now, this is the evidence. You want me to make an act of faith, risking myself, my wife, my sister,
my children on some idealism which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seen.
Raoul Pecks’ I Am Not Negro is a must see. James Baldwin is a must read.