'I Am Not Your Negro' Filmmaker Wants Readers to Discover James Baldwin

Posted by Cybil on February 2, 2017


A new documentary based on James Baldwin's unfinished book "Remember This House" is introducing one of America's great writers to a new generation of readers. The movie I Am Not Your Negro explores the United States' history of race relations through Baldwin's personal memories of three very different civil rights leaders: Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X.

The film is garnering numerous accolades including an Academy Award nomination for best documentary feature. The Guardian called the film "a cinematic seance, and one of the best movies about the civil rights era ever made." And Variety said it's "the rare movie that might be called a spiritual documentary."

But for Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck, this movie is a love letter to his favorite author and a hope that more people will now discover Baldwin's writings.

"I read Baldwin when I was very young. The Fire Next Time opened up the whole world for me," Peck said. "Not only that, I’ve given more than a thousand of Baldwin's books to other people—to friends, to family, to students. And, over all these years, Baldwin has been not only a companion but an incredible instrument for understanding the world."


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The 64-year-old director says that because all of this films are personal, he knew that one day he would make a movie about Baldwin. He said he felt the time was right to make the film because he thought Baldwin's writing was being erased from people's minds.

"I think that moment came when I felt something was missing, a voice was missing. And I saw how over the years some people were either trying to push Baldwin aside or trying to reduce him to a minor writer, which is unacceptable," Peck said.

"Knowing what I know about Baldwin and how he played such an extraordinary role in who I am today, I knew it was an obligation to make sure his words will [resonate] forever. And through the medium of film, younger people will have access to it and ultimately go back to reading."

For those unfamiliar with Baldwin's writing, Peck recommends beginning with The Fire Next Time.

"It’s an incredible book and once you read it, you’ll want to read more. Then after that you can read all of his essays, you can read one or two a day. It’s like medicine, you should take it bit by bit. But you can’t stop, these are texts you can keeping coming back to," said Peck.

Baldwin Quotes

More of James Baldwin's Work:
The Fire Next Time
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Go Tell It on the Mountain
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Giovanni's Room
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The Ninth Configuration
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The movie I Am Not Your Negro was widely released in theaters on February 3. Add James Baldwin's books to your reading list.

And check out more recent blogs:
Audiobooks with Amazing Casts
Great Books to Read Aloud During National Storytelling Week
Year of the Rooster Reader: Top Books from 'Rooster' Authors

Comments Showing 1-13 of 13 (13 new)

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message 1: by Alondra (new)

Alondra Miller I have 2 on my list now. I have never read him, but heard enough when coming up.


message 2: by Lamar (new)

Lamar So happy this is happening.


message 3: by Caroline (new)

Caroline I have just added "Go Tell It On The Mountain" to my want to read list. I can remember discussing this book when I was at school,though we didn't actually read it.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Caroline wrote: "I have just added "Go Tell It On The Mountain" to my want to read list. I can remember discussing this book when I was at school,though we didn't actually read it."

I also suggest Giovanni's Room. It's often considered one of his best works, despite it not being his most popular.


message 5: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Thanks for the recommendation Lorenzo.


message 6: by ChristyT (last edited Feb 03, 2017 07:37AM) (new)

ChristyT  I am a 72 year old Canadian white woman (I include these facts just as an aside) who read everything Mr Baldwin wrote in my 20's and 30's and the memories of his works have stayed with me to this day. His writing soars!


message 7: by Caio (new)

Caio Xavier Christy wrote: "I am a 72 year old Canadian white woman (I include these facts just as an aside) who read everything Mr Baldwin wrote in my 20's and 30's and the memories of his works have stayed with me to this d..."

Hi Christy, I am a brazilian 28 yo and just became aware of this author. What would you recommend for me to read? What book captures best the authors writing?


message 8: by ChristyT (new)

ChristyT  I think my favorite was "IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK" but this might just be a starting point as it's a personal choice.


message 9: by Lady Jayme, (new)

Lady Jayme, His wish is coming true - I went out and bought The Fire Next Time because I saw the movie trailer.


message 10: by Anne (new)

Anne Gray Wow, this reminds me of reading "Another Country" a few years ago. I just checked if I still have it but I must have lent it to someone!

This took me inside the smoky, moody, apartments of New York in the jazz era of the late 50s early 60s, and, for its time was probably quite shocking in writing about a racially mixed group of people and even more taboo, included gay relationships.

His writing was so beautiful, and he created an atmosphere and mood. I remember thinking that was the nearest thing I'd got to in experiencing New York apartment living amongst the bohemian art set!

I will definitely seek out the film AND read more...


message 11: by Ben (new)

Ben He is my fave author of all time. Just buy any and everything that you can find and gobble them up.


message 12: by Julia (new)

Julia i have read nearly all his books when i was in school. one of the few black authors available in the netherlands back then. almost 45 years ago.


message 13: by Joy (new)

Joy Ziya I am an 80 year old English woman.I discovered his books in the 60s and found his writing to be extraordinary and brilliant,and wanted to read everything he ever wrote!
Recently when looking through my paperback collection,I discovered that only one of his books remains.I believe I lent out many that were not returned.
The only one now in my possession is Tell Me How Long The Train,s Been Gone.
This discussion reminds me that I want to read all of them again.
I had looked for any books of his a while ago and was under the impression they were out of print.
My keeness is now renewed.Also keeness to inspire others to read t his brilliant writer!!


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