Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Fire Next Time” as Want to Read:
The Fire Next Time
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Fire Next Time

4.39  ·  Rating Details ·  15,846 Ratings  ·  917 Reviews
A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin's early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document. It consists of t ...more
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published 1963 by Michael Joseph Ltd
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Baldwin doles out some tough love to the American people, 100 years after Emancipation, and also writes to his 14-year old nephew about the race issue in America. I have never read any of Baldwin’s nonfiction so I was surprised at how frank and direct he was.

The letter to the American people was more compelling to me than the one to his nephew. It discussed the racist realities in the USA, and also religion, Christianity (which James Baldwin adhered to, for a while at least) and the Nation of Is
Feb 22, 2016 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
If we -- and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others -- do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophesy, re-created from the Bible in a song by a slave, is upon us:

"God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more
Dec 01, 2015 William1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20-ce, essays, race
At 106 pages, The Fire Next Time is a brief snapshot of U.S. race relations in 1963. Like a balance sheet it concisely details the nation's racial strengths and (considerable) shortcomings. It was published one year before LBJ's Great Society program passed Congress, which, for the first time in the nation's history, sought to address longstanding racial injustices. Baldwin describes the unrelenting degradation faced by black Americans, both white indifference and murderous hostility toward them ...more
Something very sinister happens to the people of a country when they begin to distrust their own reactions as deeply as they do here, and become as joyless as they have become. It is this individual uncertainty on the part of white American men and women, this inability to renew themselves at the fountain of their own lives, that makes the discussion, let alone elucidation, of any conundrum—that is, any reality—so supremely difficult. The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reali
A warm rush starts from the pit of my being and moves to my enflamed fingertips as I consider Baldwin's commentary. His fire ignites mine; it ignites any reader who traverses these thoughts set aflame by prosaic finesse and passionate renderings. Coincidentally, I had this opened at the same time I read Maya Angelou's The Heart of a Woman, where I came across James Baldwin, or "Jim," sharing a taxi with Maya Angelou and her former husband, during the heat of the literary movement of the late 195 ...more
When so many authors reference a work when completing their own, it is necessary to go to the source. Baldwin’s important work was first published in 1962, right in the middle of the Civil Rights movement. It must have been enormously affective to those trying to articulate their dispossession at that time. But so many authors, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jesmyn Ward, and Teju Cole to name a few I have read lately, specifically talk about how Baldwin influenced them and point out how little has changed in ...more
The Fire Next Time (1963)
from Baldwin: Collection of Essays - The Library of America

This book is Baldwin's opinion on race relations, perceived not only as a Negro, but as one with a deep insight into human psychology. He was one of the unprecedented writers to express what it was like to be Negro in a white society; to discuss with such insight the psychological impediments most Negroes faced; and to realize the complications of Negro-white relations in many variant contexts:

On Religion
He sa
Sep 06, 2016 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, 2016-bingo
All policeman have by now, for me, become exactly the same, and my style with them is designed simply to intimidate them before they can intimidate me. No doubt I am guilty of some injustice here, but it is irreducible, since I cannot risk assuming that the humanity of these people is more real to them than their uniforms.
- James Baldwin in 1964

Fuck the police
coming straight from the underground
A young nigga got it bad cause I'm brown
And not the other color, so police think
They have the authori
Ken Moten
Aug 02, 2016 Ken Moten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People
"Color is not a human or a personal reality; it is a political reality. But this is a distinction so extremely hard to make that the West has not been able to make it yet."

This was an interesting read by a very interesting man. The book is a collection of two publications: a letter to his nephew on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and an article in which he recounts his time as a pentecostal minister and his encounters with Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X as well as the NOI m
Aug 19, 2016 Didi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Nothing less than AWESOME! James Baldwin was a brilliant man and writer. I can't wait to get through all of his work. This is definitely a must read for everyone.
Nov 17, 2013 Mariel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dungeon shook
Recommended to Mariel by: Eric
The universe, which is not merely the stars and the moon
and the planets, flowers, grass, and trees, but other people,
has evolved no terms for your existence, has made no room for you, and
if love will not swing wide the gates, no other power will or can. And
if one despairs- as who has not?- of human love, God's alone is left.
But God- and I felt this even then, so long ago, on that tremendous
floor, unwillingly- is white. And if his love was so great, and if He
loved all his children, why were we, t
Jun 29, 2014 Zanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: racism, politics, essays
First read in 2008.

This book is so beautiful and clear. Baldwin has forced himself, against all the violence heaped upon him and those around him, not to see through hatred and think through hatred, which would be just after all. He outlines and touches on so many of the issues that are still real and painful in America and in the UK too, where white supremacy persists like a weed that keeps springing back up. It's almost depressing to read his words in 1963, words of courageous optimism and hop
Oct 27, 2014 Yossie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*falls to the ground*
*opens arms*

I wanna find Baldwin and hug him and cry into his arms and tell him thanks.


Why isn't this mandatory reading?
I don't get it.

It's impossible to 'review' this book. All I want to do is shout and tell everyone to read it. I don't know whether some people think it is outdated, but if that is the case, I would like to say that it isn't. I was reading this book and thinking about the state of America, right now. Thinking about the Black American expe
Liz BooksandStuff
Jul 17, 2016 Liz BooksandStuff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity.”

I have never really suffered through racism, well, not until I started wearing hijab. But before that I did not, I grew up in an European-white family, in a town filled with white people and a few people of colour, but because of the country I grew up, and the wonderful family I had, I was raised to know that everyone
Jul 29, 2011 Kinga rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everybody should read this book. Not only because it is extremely written, not repetetive (like some essays can be), to the point and just bloody brilliant but above all because sadly it is still relevant. If you think that musings of a black gay man reflecting on America in the 50s somehow have nothing to do with you then do yourself a favour and read it. It is only 80 pages, not like I am asking you to read War and Peace.
I want to believe that the World has come a long way since the 50s. I am
Chris Blocker
Aug 20, 2015 Chris Blocker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“...if the word integration means anything, this is what it means: that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it.”

Tamir Rice
John Crawford III
Eric Garner
Oscar Grant

“White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this—which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never—the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.”

Walter Scott
Timothy Stansbury
Ronald Madison
James Brisette

“There [the police] st
Written almost 50 years ago during the Civil Rights era, these two works (a letter and an essay) afford the 21st Century reader a solid no-holds barred picture of life lived through apartheid America as seen through the eyes of a black man.

I had a hard copy in college (in the 80s) of this book and thought it was too angry and unfortunately never read it in its entirety (only 100 pages mind you). Listening now as I’ve lived life a little, I see that it was my inability to process and interpret he
Sep 20, 2013 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dated? Not at all.

It can be objected that I am speaking of political freedom in spiritual terms, but the political institutions of any nation are always menaced and are ultimately controlled by the spiritual state of that nation. We are controlled here by our confusion, far more than we know, and the American dream has therefore become something much more closely resembling a nightmare, on the private, domestic, and international levels. Privately, we cannot stand our lives and dare not examine
J Beckett
How do you write a review for ANY work by James Baldwin? The Fire Next Time...?

You don’t!

Amazing, untimely, and hauntingly prophetic. Massively tiny tome of brilliance.

Should be read by every human being on the planet!
Roy Lotz
I am far from convinced that being released from the African witch doctor was worthwhile if I am now—in order to support the moral contradictions and the spiritual aridity of my life—expected to become dependent on the American psychiatrist.

Ta-Nehisi Coates led me here, but I should have gotten here a long time before that. James Baldwin is a powerful and penetrating writer; and this book, though short, is an encyclopedia of thought.

After I finished The Souls of Black Folks, by W.E.B. Du Bois
May 18, 2014 Melanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 98 page game changer. I wish I could drum up more than that, but I'm wowed senseless.

“There are too many things we do not wish to know about ourselves.”
― James Baldwin

Curtis Ackie
Mar 31, 2014 Curtis Ackie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Baldwin’s understanding of the struggle eases the pain, and his compassion fills the heart. It is surely a sign of brilliance that he makes the tying together of his words seem so effortless.
Barry Pierce
I don't know how to review this. It feels almost wrong reviewing such important letters. These letters are powerful and important and really worth your while.
Existential, ruthless, humane and lucid. Baldwin is one of humanity’s wisemen. His insight goes so far beyond the context it is most often given in that one cannot but wonder what poor corners of this world might never hear his message. He cuts through social institutions,

“The word ‘safety’ brings us to the real meaning of the word ‘religious’ as we use it.”

while exerting the compassion of their messiahs,

“The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you (Baldwin’s nephew) must accept them (whi
Sep 09, 2016 Sofia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, br, 2016

A very succint piece that is the true essence of Baldwin.

"Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word "love" here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace.

As always Baldwin gives food for thought as he considers two different paths Negro tried to get to 'salvation', Christianity and Islam. Both deemed to be more considerate of themselves rather than their followers needs. So the only way forwar
Sarah Weathersby
I first read this book in the sixties, but I had to revisit Baldwin's powerful sermon/commentary on racism in America from today's perspective. After the ushering in of the laughable "Post-racial" society that was to be the Obama years, two terms of vilifying, attempted impeachment, and undercutting of the "Leader of the Free World" because he is a black man; and the "Stand Your Ground" laws that allow for "Open Season" on young black men; just make me think not much has changed in the 50 years ...more
May 11, 2014 Sharla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The rating of four stars is intended to indicate that we “really like” a book. I can’t say this book was entertaining or extremely enjoyable to read but I certainly considered it important enough for four stars. Introspection and self-examination are not always enjoyable but necessary and desirable. I was prompted to read the book by a quote shared on facebook. As often happens, someone else wanted to argue about the meaning of the quote. The quote was, “If the concept of God has any validity or ...more
Nov 02, 2008 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who thinks or acts or relates to other people
Another book that I re-read recently. This book consists of two pieces; Baldwin's letter to his nephew and an essay. Both pieces gave me great insight into race relations and white racism.

Baldwin recounts his childhood, growing up in Harlem, including reflections on his experiences in the church, his observations of poverty, and his run-ins with hustlers and the street-life. He combines this with a passionate and convincing psychological and sociological inquiry into racism.

In both pieces, Baldw
Mar 22, 2013 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People + Susan
Recommended to Karen by: Mast Bookstore
I find it impossible to believe that this book was once the #1 best seller in this nation (Just try to imagine that! Current best seller: "home front" all lowercase, superimposed on a pastel beach scene with a picturesque shabby-chic candle-lantern in the foreground. In the background, soft-focus, we see a white family standing on the sand in jeans, looking outward, watching the sunrise, or something more unearthly than the sunrise... the eerie light that will surely precede the second coming of ...more
Robb Todd
James Badlwin might be America's greatest writer. If you haven't heard many, or any, people say this, you should ask yourself why that is.

The Fire Next Time is brilliant and, sadly, still relevant. America is a different place in many ways, but in many other ways it is exactly the same. And always will be.

This book is required reading for anyone who desires to understand America more fully--and Baldwin correctly asserts that many of us don't want that.

Baldwin demands we look into our hearts an
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Fire Next Time - Maya & Sofia 28th Aug 2016 94 7 Sep 07, 2016 01:30PM  
2016 Reading Chal...: The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin 1 14 May 17, 2015 09:38AM  
  • Black Looks: Race and Representation
  • Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays
  • Race Matters
  • Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson
  • Shadow and Act
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
  • Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
  • A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story
  • The Mis-Education of the Negro
  • Alchemy of Race and Rights
  • I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle
  • Black Skin, White Masks
  • Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination
  • Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America
  • The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class
  • Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)
  • The Souls of Black Folk
  • Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism (PB)
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic.

James Baldwin offered a vital literary voice during the era of civil rights activism in the 1950s and '60s. The eldest of nine children, his stepfather was a minister. At age 14, Bal
More about James Baldwin...

Share This Book

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” 1420 likes
“Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death--ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible for life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return.” 371 likes
More quotes…