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Blues for Mister Charlie

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  667 ratings  ·  40 reviews
In a small Southern town, a white man murders a black man, then throws his body in the weeds. With this act of violence--which is loosely based on the notorious 1955 killing of Emmett Till--James Baldwin launches an unsparing and at times agonizing probe of the wounds of race. For where once a white storekeeper could have shot a "boy" like Richard Henry with impunity, time...more
Paperback, 121 pages
Published April 25th 1995 by Vintage Books (first published 1964)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,096)
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3Malik
Malik Cooper
English Period 3
Banned Books Essay

Books that are banned from schools are books that are looked at by parents that complain about things that some of them have probably did. They are just too afraid to sit down with the child and talk to them about the different things in the world. So the child goes and gets books to read and learn on their own. If all the books get banned and we have parents afraid to sit down and talk about sex, drugs, and violence how will we learn? You can experi...more
Kelly
Oct 10, 2011 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: plays
The 1955 murder of 14-year old African-American boy Emmett Till was brutal and shocking by any standards. After speaking to a white woman in a Mississippi grocery store, Till was kidnapped and taken to a barn where he was beaten and had his eye gouged out before ultimately being shot in the head and dumped in the Tallahatchie River.

Roy Bryant was acquitted of murder despite pretty much bragging all over town that he did it.

Blues for Mister Charlie changes the names, but is based on the events o...more
Lisa
i read this in one sitting. it's always a good sign when a book causes you to actually laugh, cry, guffaw, and such out loud. considering baldwin didn't really do drama (in the intro to my copy he writes that he never intended to do drama at all and actually hates the form), but he does a really great job with it. the setting and scene directions are great. i could visualize the stage set up while reading it and the physical set up added a lot to the action. wish i could have seen this performed...more
Anardo Miller
Blues for Mister Charlie by James Baldwin is a play that's based on the murder of Emmett Till. Parnell, editor of the local newspaper, tells Meridian that Lyle Britten will be arrested for the murder of Richard.There used to be times where a white storekeeper could shoot a negro without any trouble, but not now, Lyle will be taken to court.
I liked how this play went through different time periods so often. It gave the play a sense of character. It was different and I think Baldwin did it effortl...more
Maughn Gregory
A bitter experience, reading this play. An ugly story (based on the case of Emmett Till), beautifully told. Baldwin portrays the disfigurement of race, sex, and Christianity in mid-20th-century America, and offers little hope for redemption.
Nikhil
The third act (the trial) felt forced. I understand it was supposed to illustrate the farcical nature of the trial, but it just came off as awkward. The first two acts, however, were quite good.

I wonder about this text's relationship with the Black Arts Movement. Baldwin was always peripheral to the movement, in no small part due to the homophobia present in writings by Amiri Baraka and Eldridge Cleaver. There are characters in the play straight out of the Black Power movement, with all the acc...more
Untitled88
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Micah
Feeling a little weird giving James Fucking Baldwin three stars, but I gotta. Some of the characters in this play felt flat and underdeveloped, especially the pastor, who is the father of the murdered young man. They feel less like human beings and more like vehicles through which Baldwin makes political points. The courtroom scenes felt rushed, and the presence of the supposed dialogue taking place outside the courtroom interspersed with what was actually taking place inside the courtroom was c...more
Anna&Scott Stockdale/Guggenheimer
I love James Baldwin. Love. Propositioned to write a play, he initially refused, railing against the failures of modern drama to capture any truth. Convinced that the murder of Emmitt Till in 1955 created the need to discuss race further, he ultimately through his hat onto the stage. The result is astounding.

The play centers around two families that vaguely resemble the key players in the Till murder. Both the black family and the white family are on stage for the majority of the play, though th...more
Darren Willis
First published and produced in 1964, this is James Baldwin's second play.

It takes place in a rural town in the American South, where a young black student, Richard, has been murdered.

The story focuses on Richard, his friends and family in the town's black community, as well as the white community, including the murder suspect, a young shop owner named Lyle. One of the more interesting characters is Parnell, a white journalist who acts as sort of a bridge between the two communities, with frie...more
Tracey
Oct 08, 2011 Tracey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Tracey by: Professor Veronica Wilson-Tagoe
the first time i read this (mid-August), i knew that the play was loosely based on the killing of Emmett Till. before reading it again, the professor of a Contemporary African American Literature course i'm taking encouraged us to get familiar with the story behind Emmett Till's murder (which was never discussed in history classes when i was younger). this play shook my insides both times that i read it, but the second time, i find that i'm much angrier. i may have to read this a third time befo...more
Yvette Porter Moore
Baldwin's "Blues for Mister Charlie" is still very relevant after Fifty years when we as a society continue to deal with cases such as Trayvon Martin. Who has power and who gets justice?

Baldwin weaves a story around race, sexuality and justice.

There are so many summaries and reviews of this work of art. I suggest that everyone read because today we are repeating history, and in order to rid our society of injustice, we must know the history of it, and do something to affect change throughout ou...more
Alison
WOW. I haven't read a play this good in a long time. The protagonists were reprehensible, the antagonists had their human moments... things just came together well. The only confusing thing was that sometimes the narration would jump straight into flashback, and it throws you off unless you're reading carefully, but by the time you get to Act 3 you get the hang of it, which is good because Act 3 is half action, half cathartic flashback.
Gaelan D'costa
Like most of Baldwin's work I find his anti-intolerance stance admirable. The book did not catch my attention either as a play or a statement. Unlike To Kill a Mockingbird, which felt a bit more universal, this book doesn't escape the world it was set in.

I can respect the historical significance of this book, but to a twenty-first century whippersnapper for whom racial coexistance is not an opption but implied in existence, the issues it deals with are disrespectfully and --yes, naively-- discar...more
Paul
Blistering and scathing tale based in a passing way on the murder of Emmett Till. Baldwin is in peak form as he lays bear the problems of race relations at the time of the Civil Rights Movement. Sadly, as the Trayvon Martin case illustrates, we haven't advanced very far in that regard, making this play as relevant now as when Baldwin wrote it.
Ketrina Childs
Amazing play...I picked this play to perform a scene from it and was advised to read the whole thing. My scene partner and I read the whole thing in a day and was left speechless. A mist read for anyone...the language is a bit much so not ideal for anyone younger than high school.
Mike
Another great Baldwin piece. He really is good. James Baldwin creates these characters with the feeling of being multidimensional without overstating their positions.
Ashley
"If you're a Black man with a Black son, you have to forget about white people and concentrate on trying to save your child."
Stephen
Sidney Poitier, Lena Horne, Harry Belafonte and Sammy Davis, Jr. all signed a letter praising this 1964 play along with a couple of dozen others including Marlon Brando, Shelley Winters and Tennessee Williams. It's dated. It's difficult. By the very end I was interested but what an effort it was to get there. I would have rather read a non-fiction account of the Emmet Till case it's said to be based on. I did get a giggle out of the use of outdated slang (dig, swinging, "the man") but not so muc...more
Phillip
A really interesting play, which explores racism and violence by attempting to see inside a white supremacist's head. For me what's most fascinating about this play is the moral conflicts of the minor characters, particularly Juanita and Parnell. To me, the main conflict becomes something of a backdrop for their problems and their attempts at solutions. This isn't because of a problem with the way Baldwin has written the play, just that I happen to be more interested in the minor characters than...more
Paddythemic
play about trayvon martin, I mean a southern black boy who was murdered by a racist.
Harper
excellent tale of racism in the deep south. really made me think.
Michael Borshuk
Baldwin's incendiary 1964 play evokes the memory of Emmett Till's 1955 murder to interrogate ongoing volatility between black and white as the Civil Rights Era moved to crescendo. As always, he's wonderful at highlighting the paradoxes of segregation and hatred between the races, those pockets of connection that belie the violence on the surface. As experimental and candid as anything that younger black dramatists were doing at that same time, despite the undue criticism Baldwin received from so...more
Lana
Blues For Mister Charlie is certainly a political play. It's structure is very unique and differs from the traditonal structure of the play, which at firsts makes it difficult to read as a plot, this is the type of play best seen as just that, a play. It was quite deep, at times long-winded and unnecessarily elaborate. However this is probably part of the BAM movement and theatre form. James Baldwin though certainly knows how to write a play, despite the original reaction against him.
Terry
Jul 16, 2012 Terry rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: novel
Baldwin effectively scolds white America for racial injustices. This is one of Baldwin's plays, telling the story of a white man who gets away with killing an outspoken black man in the South during the 50s. The whites are typically naive, evil, and the blacks are just coming to act against the injustice. One educated white testifies with mediocrity, and may simultaneously be the hero and the villian. Baldwin writes an extremely disturbing book, again.
Natalie
This is the first Baldwin play that I've read. I much prefer his novels, not to say that this wasn't great. In fact, when you read about the real life events that inspired Baldwin to write this play it becomes incredibly profound. I just wish we were told more about the characters - like Richard and Parnell. I'm used to Baldwin giving me so much detail to work with and I missed that but, of course, this is a play, not a novel. Worth a read.
Lynecia
A punch in the chest: a raw look at race and justice in the 1960s - inspired by the murder of Emmett Till in 1955, "Blues for Mister Charlie" is the story of a white man who is acquitted of a black man's murder, and the issues it causes every one around him to confront. Though I love "Uncle Jimmy's" essays and fiction much better, this is still a must read of his canon. Can't wait to see this piece performed.
Kurt
James Baldwin's first play is as much a tender revalation of both sides of the racial divide as it is a scathing broadside against racism. Wonderful speeches never feel forced as each character is given a honest voice. A young black man murdered in a small southern town...everyone is complicit...even the victim. And everyone, in the end, is a victim. Baldwin as always expresses what it is to be human.
Luci
A fictionalized account of real life racism and the murder of Emmitt Till. An important read for anyone trying to understand our nation's history steeped in racial hatred and the fight for civil rights. Good to read with or after "To Kill a Mockingbird" (Harper Lee), and "I know why the Caged Bird Sings" (Maya Angelou).
Cody
I liked this play, the characters were fascinating dichotomies of each other, and, for the most part, believeable. I think the best part, however, was the intro note Baldwin writes. It is just a fascinating piece on the ethics of craft, in my opinion.
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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
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“Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel; the wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.” 0 likes
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