In this essay, Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. addresses the historical and contemporary
failures of American democracy. Using the metaphor of “the
magician’s serpent,” Glaude brings Walt Whitman’s views on
democracy into the full light of America’s failure to resolve the problem
of race. Glaude places Whitman’s Democratic Vistas
(1871) in conversation with James Baldwin’s No Name in the
Street (1972) in order to construct a different sort of reading
practice that can both engage with Whitman’s views on democracy and
reckon with what George Hutchinson calls Whitman’s “white
imperialist self and ideology” as an indication of the limits of a
certain radical democratic imagining.
If he is known for anything other than his writings, James Baldwin is best known for his
work as a civil rights activist. What is often overlooked is Baldwin’s work toward uniting
two under-represented and oppressed groups: African Americans and homosexuals. With his
first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Baldwin began a career of speaking about and for
homosexuals and their relationship with the institutions of African-American communities.
Through its focus on a sensitive, church-going teenager, Go Tell It on the Mountain
dramatizes the strain imposed upon homosexual members of African-American communities
within the Pentecostal Church through its religious beliefs.
James Baldwin, William F. Buckley, Jr., and the Civil Rights
Born in New York City only fifteen months apart, the Harlem-raised James Baldwin
and the privileged William F. Buckley, Jr. could not have been more different,
but they both rose to the height of American intellectual life during the civil
rights movement. By the time they met in February 1965 to debate race and the
American Dream at the Cambridge Union, Buckley—a founding father of the
American conservative movement—was determined to sound the alarm about a
man he considered an “eloquent menace.” For his part, Baldwin
viewed Buckley as a deluded reactionary whose popularity revealed the sickness
of the American soul. The stage was set for an epic confrontation that pitted
Baldwin’s call for a moral revolution in race relations against
Buckley’s unabashed elitism and implicit commitment to white supremacy.
In this article I introduce readers to the story at the heart of my new book
about Baldwin and Buckley, The Fire Is Upon Us.
Artists, scholars, and popular media often describe James Baldwin as
revolutionary, either for his written work or for his role in the civil rights
movement. But what does it mean to be revolutionary? This article contends that
thoughtlessly calling James Baldwin revolutionary obscures and erases the
non-revolutionary strategies and approaches he employed in his contributions to
the civil rights movement and to race relations as a whole. Frequent use of
revolutionary as a synonym for “great” or
“important” creates an association suggesting that all good things
must be revolutionary, and that anything not revolutionary is insufficient,
effectively erasing an entire spectrum of social and political engagement from
view. Baldwin’s increasing relevance to our contemporary moment suggests
that his non-revolutionary tactics are just as important as the revolutionary
approaches employed by civil rights leaders such as Malcolm X or Martin Luther
James Baldwin, William F. Buckley,
Jr., and the 1965 Cambridge Debate
Daniel Robert McClure
The 1965 debate at Cambridge University between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley,
Jr., posed the question: “Has the American Dream been achieved at the Expense of the
American Negro?” Within the contours of the debate, Baldwin and Buckley wrestled with the
ghosts of settler colonialism and slavery in a nation founded on freedom and equality.
Framing the debate within the longue durée, this essay examines the deep cultural currents
related to the American racial paradox at the height of the Civil Rights movement.
Underscoring the changing language of white resistance against black civil rights, the
essay argues that the Baldwin and Buckley debate anticipated the ways the U.S. would
address racial inequality in the aftermath of the civil rights era and the dawn of
neoliberalism in the 1970s.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016) takes its direction from the notes for a book
entitled “Remember this House” that James Baldwin left unfinished, a book about his three
friends—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.— their murders, and their
intertwining legacies. The film examines the prophetic shadow Baldwin’s work casts on
twentieth- and twenty-first-century American politics and culture. Peck compiles archival
material from Baldwin’s interviews on The Dick Cavett Show, his 1965 Cambridge lecture,
and a series of banal images indexing the American dream. Juxtaposed against this
mythology is footage of Dorothy Counts walking to school, the assassination of black
leaders and activists, KKK rallies, and the different formations of the contemporary
carceral state. Our conversation examines Peck’s role as a filmmaker and his relationship
with the Baldwin estate. Additionally, we discussed a series of aesthetic choices he
fought to include in the film’s final cut, directing Samuel L. Jackson as the voice for
the film, the similarities and shifts he wanted to document in American culture since the
1960s, and some of the criticism he has received for not emphasizing more Baldwin’s
Four Decisive Challenges Confronting Humanitarian Innovation
Gerard Finnigan and Otto Farkas
Burkle , F. M.
Martone , G.
Greenough , P.
G. ( 2013 ), ‘ The Changing Face
of Humanitarian Crises’ , The Brown Journal of
World Affairs , 20 : 11 ,