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The Devil Finds Work

The Devil Finds Work is the last book-length piece of nonfiction (Baldwin calls it an “essay”) that Baldwin wrote, and though it’s similar to some earlier pieces in its focus on Baldwin’s autobiography, and obviously addresses similar themes, it picks a … Continue reading

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If Beale Street Could Talk

When a student told me last year that If Beale Street Could Talk – James Baldwin’s 1974 novel which I had not read at the time – was being made into a movie, I was sort of nonplussed.  There were other … Continue reading

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No Name in the Street

It is not true that people become liars without knowing it.  A liar always knows he is lying, and that is why liars travel in packs: in order to be reassured that the judgment day will never come for them … Continue reading

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James Baldwin – Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone

Though Baldwin wrote about his own life a lot, Baldwin’s 1968 novel Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone seems like the closest he came to writing a full-length autobiography.  It’s written in the first person and as his biographer … Continue reading

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What I’ve Learned Bringing Kendrick Lamar into my Classroom

When Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize today, I think more than a few people probably dismissed it as somehow the committee trying to be trendy but that the award itself is undeserved.  They’re wrong.  For me, the question is … Continue reading

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Ain’t Nothin’ New – Or – James Baldwin – Blues for Mister Charlie

[I put the James Baldwin reading project on hold for a while, but it’s back.] In one of my classes, we just finished an almost quarter-long exploration of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.  One of the coolest things about studying … Continue reading

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From Slavery to Freedom – or – Why White People Need to Learn from Black History

I know your countrymen do not agree with me here and I hear them saying, “You exaggerate.” They do not know Harlem and I do. So do you. Take no one’s word for anything, including mine, but trust your experience. … Continue reading

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What I Mean by White Supremacy

“The bondage of the Negro brought captive from Africa is one of the greatest dramas in history, and the writer who merely sees in that ordeal something to approve or condemn fails to understand the evolution of the human race.” … Continue reading

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What is White Supremacy? Does it Exist? One try at explaining these questions

 Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shivering and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is out of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the … Continue reading

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George Pelecanos’s DC Quartet

I started reading George Pelecanos novels because he was one of the writers on HBO’s The Wire.  Specifically, he gets the writing credit on the episode that has what still feels to me, 15 years later, like the saddest moment … Continue reading

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