James Baldwin is unequivocally one of the most prolific writers of his time.
A queer black man, he brought life to the African-American experience through his novels, essays, debates and public lectures. And now a new generation is getting to experience the power of those words in the Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro.
Baldwin wrote for his life and the lives of his brothers and sisters—who were muted, unheard and forgotten—so that the world would begin to understand how America, a country he loved dearly, created (and perpetuated) a system whose premise is, by design, the oppression of blacks.
“His words almost sounded like prophecy, but really, they were just understanding—particularly a good understanding of whiteness and white supremacy,” says writer Robert Jones Jr.
Indeed, Baldwin spoke truth to power.
“If they come for you in the morning, then they will be coming for us at night,” said James Baldwin in his prophetic 1970 letter to Angela Davis. Decades later, these words still ring true.
Here, a range of voices—including actor Daniel Beaty, singer-songwriter Imani Uzuri and writer Robert Jones Jr.—pay homage to Baldwin through a reading of his work “An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis”: