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The Fire Next Time

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  57,842 ratings  ·  4,817 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
Paperback, 106 pages
Published February 1st 1993 by Vintage (first published January 31st 1963)
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Michael It's not very long - read it and decide for yourself ☺
Aspen Absolutely. It's hard to see the effects because they are oftentimes overshadowed by the pitting nature of black and white dichotomies. As mentioned i…moreAbsolutely. It's hard to see the effects because they are oftentimes overshadowed by the pitting nature of black and white dichotomies. As mentioned in the book, Nazi regimes financially supported the NOI because giving the enemy a "face" assured the defensive tactics of white supremacy... If we merely look at this dichotomy as a testament to the status of racial injustice than we are not acknowledging the progression formed via self-reflection and communal growth and support. The notion of love needs to be underlined, italicized, and put in bold because that's the root of all revolutionary potential. It does not rest in the hands of our government and other mediating institutions that disrupt genuine human relations... but the fabric of pure recognition and communication that revolutionary potential demands.(less)

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BlackOxford
Black Tyranny and How to Overcome It

We are what we read as well as what we eat. Because what we read brings us experiences we have never had. As Baldwin says elsewhere, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” Reading The Fire Next Time cannot but change one's experience of the world. Written an half century ago, it sadly remains timeless. Sadly because the position of the black man in the America of white racism has not been rem
...more
Rowena
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
...more
Bill Kerwin
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing

This little book had been on my long “to-read” list for many years, but when I heard its first essay, “My Dungeon Shook,” was the inspiration for Ta-Nahisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, I moved the book right up to the top. I am glad I did.

At first, though, I was disappointed. The essay “My Dungeon Shook”—the model for Coates epistolary device, the way he addresses his young son directly, as Baldwin once addressed his nephew here—is short, relatively insignificant compared to “Down at the Cr
...more
carol.
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Americans
"And all this is happening in the richest and freest country in the world, and in the middle of the 20th century. The subtle and deadly change of heart that might occur and you would be involved with the realization that a civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless."

Baldwin considers this, after he and two friends in their thirties were refused service at a busy bar in O'Hare Airport 'because they were too young.' The
...more
WILLIAM2
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, race, 20-ce
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
Darwin8u
Sep 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Kevin Kelsey
Fantastic. Required reading.
J.L.   Sutton
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Written during the battle for Civil Rights in the early 60s, Baldwin's impassioned call to action in The Fire Next Time is unmistakable. Racism in America has had a devastating effect on African Americans and White Americans. Baldwin challenges us to see past the signs (Colored and White) which divide us. Accepting the artificial barriers of segregation may not be wicked, but denying our fellow citizens dignity is both racist and most assuredly spineless. Baldwin claims people cling to their hat ...more
Alex
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
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
...more
Maxwell
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

I'm sure I will revisit this again, possibly even quite soon. It's short but there is so much to unpack and it's so excellently written. I can see why this is a staple of Baldwin's oeuvre and one of the most influential non-fiction works of the last century.
Thomas
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A powerful couple of essays about race relations in the 1960s, with an emphasis on America's determination to destroy black men. Despite the brevity of this book, James Baldwin covers a lot of meaningful ground, ranging from transforming his anger into a sense of purpose and leaving the church due to its oppressive nature. As others have written, it is sad how the themes of these essays remain relevant today.

I felt most inspired by Baldwin's explicit naming of whiteness and the confidence of his
...more
Cheryl
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
Nicole~
The Fire Next Time
from Baldwin: Collection of Essays- The Library of America

This book is Baldwin's opinion on race relations, perceived not only as African American, 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 Black in a White society; to discuss with such insight the psychological impediments most Blacks faced; and to realize the complications of Black-White relations in many variant contexts:

On Religion
He saw t
...more
Chris Blocker
Aug 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“...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] s
...more
Leah Craig
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
James Baldwin’s voice is concise and brilliant and I am incredibly unworthy to review it. So I’m just going to leave you with the passage that stood out the most to me.

“The treatment accorded the Negro during the Second World War marks, for me, a turning point in the Negro’s relation to America. To put it briefly, and somewhat too simply, a certain hope died, a certain respect for white Americans faded. One began to pity them, or to hate them. You must put yourself in the skin of a man who is w
...more
David Schaafsma
Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, race
"God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, the fire next time."

Given that this book preceded the civil rights movement of the sixties, the title feels prophetic, though if you think of the fires we have seen yet again in 2020, you have to think how many fires we'll have have. I’ve read this book a number of times over the years. It’s short and its epistolary approach is accessible and every year it remains sadly relevant on the challenges of being black in white America. I first read it as c
...more
PattyMacDotComma
5★
“Other people cannot see what I see whenever I look into your father’s face, for behind your father’s face as it is today are all those other faces which were his.”


This is from “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation’

I chose this quote because it’s universal. When we look at the faces of our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, we see those in our family who came before them.

I remember being shown a beautiful black and white
...more
Brown Girl Reading
Aug 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aubrey
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 rea
...more
Trish
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
Cheri
‘One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us.’ - From DOWN AT THE CROSS: Letter from a Region in My Mind

The above quote, for me, sums up the message at the heart of this book. We are all responsible to life, and not just our own. We all have some accountability for the words we say, the things we do, the people
...more
Book Riot Community
After seeing the documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, I knew I had to get my hands on Baldwin’s work. I began with this short book, composed of a letter to his nephew and a longer essay, that deals head-on with the “racial nightmare” of the United States (to use Baldwin’s own words). The author describes the suffocating Harlem of his youth, his disappointment with trying to find salvation through religion and his own conflicting feelings about Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad. The book is vi ...more
Dannii Elle
“The very time I thought I was lost, my dungeon shook and my chains fell off.”
Trevor
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, race
I guess if anyone starts writing a letter offering advice to their nephew who just happens to have the same first name as they do, it is probably reasonable to assume they are also giving advice to the younger version of themselves. This is a stunning book, and a short and fast read. Baldwin’s writing is moving, intelligent and it just sings – but it doesn’t ‘soar’. I mean that as a real compliment. He never gets carried away with his own rhetorical flourishes – rather he presents us with all of ...more
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!

This marks my 7th reading of this amazing book.
Meike
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-read, usa
"God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, the fire next time!"


First published in 1963, this book contains two texts:

• "My Dungeon Shook — Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation" is composed as a letter to Baldwin's 14-year-old nephew in which he talks about the black experience in America;

• "Down At The Cross — Letter from a Region of My Mind" focuses on race and religion (it's very enlightening when it comes to finding out to what prompted Baldwin to write
...more
Kinga
Oct 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-1963
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
...more
Gabrielle
“This is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it.”

James Baldwin’s lyrical and muscular prose always punches me in the feels; this time, it freaking shattered my heart. I knew it would. I knew that the two letters that make up “The Fire Next Time” dealt with Baldwin's experience of racism in
...more
leynes
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: black-writers
I read The Fire Next Time back in April and never wrote a review because at the time I wasn't quite ready for this book. James Baldwin is most definitely a very gifted writer and one of the most important voices of 20th-century-America, however these two essays, which can be read as a plea to the American population, demand a certain level of knowledge of American history and in particular of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s/60s.

However, when I first read it, I had next no knowledge about
...more
B. P. Rinehart
Oct 17, 2014 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
...more
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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. He was the eldest of nine children; his stepfather was a minister. At age
...more

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