For many, James Baldwin will be most recently familiar from the 2016 documentary by Raoul Peck, “I Am Not Your Negro,” — which is the sanitized version of what he actually said in the film. It’s composed of clips of interviews with Baldwin in the 1960s, of newsreel footage of events in America –from white mobs threatening and spitting on young school children to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr speaking–, of scenes from popular movies,  all underlined and emphasized by scenes from the America of today, thirty-three years after Baldwin’s death.  Much of the voice-over commentary by Samuel L. Jackson comes from one of Baldwin’s lesser-known books, No Name in the Street (1972). 

Others may remember him from his first novel, Go Tell it On the Mountain, (my review) or his third, which really vaulted him to nationwide attention with its interracial and homosexual love, Another Country.  Perhaps his essays and social commentary had the widest audience.  His 1955 Notes of a Native Son and 1963 The Fire Next Time are still read and referred to.  He also authored book reviews, forwards and afterwords for other writers, profiles of others, and many, many speeches.  The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings, (2010) has a broad selection. 

What he is least known for is his short fiction, of which he wrote little.  The 1965 Going to Meet the Man, contains eight stories, three of which were written for the volume, the others for magazine publication.  None stray far from his novelistic or essayist concerns of race, sex, and mid-century America social conditions. Though none break stylistic grounds or even norms, all are fine reading.  Though much has changed since the time they were written, from 1948 to 1965, and younger, more contemporary, writers have written from more recent concerns, they still provide both readerly enjoyment and glimpses of lives not our own.

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