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The Fire Next Time

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  31,981 ratings  ·  2,554 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, First Vintage International edition, 106 pages
Published December 1st 1992 by Vintage (first published 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…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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4.51  · 
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 ·  31,981 ratings  ·  2,554 reviews

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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
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
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
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
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
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
Kevin Kelsey
Fantastic. Required reading.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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] st
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
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
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
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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!
Liz Janet
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
“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, t, I grew up in an European-white family, in a town filled with white people and people of colour, but because of the country I grew up, and the wonderful family I had, I was raised to know that everyone is equal, and that the only superiority a person has over any other is
Oct 31, 2010 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
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Daniel Clausen
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-of-2018
I always felt a very strange kinship to James Baldwin. Something about the way he wrote set a fire in me; his words often sounded like my words; he said things that I felt before I knew that I felt them. It's hard to read something by James Baldwin without feeling something and staring in amazement at his marvelous sentences.

In many ways, this is the best of James Baldwin and some of his most indulgent. I always think that he's better when he speaks from the well of his experiences. The best pa
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
Sarah Weathersby
Oct 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
A high 4 stars!

While it was written in the 1960s, in many ways James Baldwin could have written a similar book today. It's powerful, it resonates and it's beautifully written. I must read more James Baldwin.

This worked really well as an audio.
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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 mini
“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.” 2018 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.” 621 likes
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