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A Rap on Race

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  192 ratings  ·  25 reviews
In 1970, America's most celebrated Black author and the world's most acclaimed anthropologist met for a seven-and-a-half hour conversation about race and society. The transcript of their discussion is a revealing and unique book filled with candor, passion, rage, and brilliance. "Blunt, peppery, and spontaneous. . . ".--The Atlantic.
Paperback, 231 pages
Published December 22nd 1973 by Laurel (first published January 1st 1971)
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Susanna Sturgis
In August 1970 writer James Baldwin and anthropologist Margaret Mead met for a total of seven and a half hours over a three-day period to talk about "race." They'd never met before. This book, first published in 1971, is a transcript of their conversation.

Like any conversation, this one rambles and sometimes jumps around, so it's best not to come to it expecting the carefully organized progression of distilled insights that one finds in a good essay. Here two extremely intelligent, extremely
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
"A rap on race" (I feel x10 cooler just typing the word rap in this context) was born out of several days of conversation between James Baldwin and the anthropologist Margaret Mead. At times, it certainly reads like that. At times rambling, and jumping from subject to subject, it feels very much like a conversation two very passionate and intelligent people might have. Running the gamut from race, colonialism, consumerism, and collective guilt, they often disagree but are always fascinating.
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K by: Stolen from Still Waters in a Storm
I could not stand reading Absalom Absalom with its Southyness and constant reference to things like Wild N****** and how the non-children children that white men have with black women aren't real children, without some kind of other discussion to frame and balance it. Don't get me wrong. I don't think that the book is racist. I think Faulkner is using the novel to explore certain very dark things that include and extend beyond race into the deepest paradoxes of the human soul. But it is still a ...more
May 22, 2016 rated it liked it
This book took about 6 months to show up though interlibrary loan, and I can't exactly remember what made me request it in the first place, but it's not quite what I was expecting. The whole book is just a transcript of seven hours' worth of conversation -- in front of an audience, no less -- between Mead and Baldwin. Just a fascinating, frustrating dialogue between two interesting thinkers who often talk over and around each other about everything from race and identity to consumerism, ...more
Kevin Karpiak
Jul 22, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: rappers
I don't know what funnier about this book, the archaic use of the term "rap" or Margaret Mead trying to convince James Baldwin he's not really black.
Feb 11, 2019 rated it liked it
For long stretches, it's a little dull to read a transcribed conversation word for word, interruptions and digressions and all. Nevertheless, there are some worthwhile passages; Part 3 is by far the most interesting, containing both the sharpest challenges and the questions still most relevant. It helps to have some background information on Mead, and to understand where Baldwin was at this point in his life; the context of their exchange is important. It's almost impossible to imagine a similar ...more
Sep 30, 2017 rated it liked it
I would love to hear the audio (if available) to experience the contexts of emotion, but I found this endlessly interesting. Especially towards the end. Baldwins perceptions of the self with complicity in the systems that move and guide our lives is highly engaging.
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating how little curiosity and what poor listening skills Margaret Mead displays during these extended exchanges.
Mar 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
i would have preferred reading a concise analysis of the interview
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is the transcript of three long form conversations between Margaret Mead and James Baldwin. I'm less familiar with Mead's work so I'm not sure how well this fits in with her other works, but Baldwin in this reads a lot like he does in the other interviews I've read from him. This one is better though because there's more time for the two of them to expound on and feed off each other's ideas.

The first two sections they seem like they are mostly in agreement and they spend a lot of it
Bull Durham
A transcript of a conversation between two intellectual lions of the late 60s / early 70s, this books value was more as an exposé of what passed for an informed conversation between two elites of the time rather than, as I hoped, an examination of race relations of the time.

I walked away disappointed with Mead and frustrated with Baldwin. Mead was a cultural anthropologist scientist whose sociological studies of primitive societies were incorporated into the popular culture of the time. My
Oct 27, 2019 added it
"Then I started reading. I read everything I could get my hands on, murder mysteries, The Good Earth, everything. By the time I was thirteen I had read myself out of Harlem. There were two libraries in Harlem, and by the time I was thirteen I had read every book in both libraries and I had a card downtown for Forty-Second Street What I had to do then was bring the two things together: the possibilities the books suggested and the impossibilities of the life around me." ...more
Tracy Backer
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Occasionally challenging to read (you're reading a conversation, including the interruptions), but so timely and relevant. You're 'listening'/reading a conversation between James Baldwin and Margaret Mead as they talk about issues of the day (1970s), specifically race, and the difficulties that can entail from the white and black perspectives. Sadly, some things have not changed in 40 years.
Kit Fox
May 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The kind of book that doesn't seem to be written anymore and which there sorely needs to be more of. Seriously, this needs to get a big old "40th anniversary" re-release with an updated version to follow; hell, things like Robocop get more attention. Then again, Robocop is a pretty amazing movie... Anyways, not that this was a contest, but towards the very last part when things got a little contentious (and Mead kept saying "fiddlesticks!" instead of swearing), Baldwin seemed to be making more ...more
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: race, non-fiction
i'm glad that i was able to both read the entire transcript of "a rap on race" as well as see a live dramatization by seattle's spectrum dance company. the book is deeper, broader, & more nuanced - both in its subject coverage, and in what it reveals about baldwin & mead. but the performance made it come to life and somehow make sense in a way that the transcript never could. impossible to read these final words without getting a little teary-eyed as donald byrd's powerful voice seeps ...more
Feb 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Mead's input was cringeworthy and tone deaf. Baldwin's was far more insightful, but I'm not sure it's worth reading simply for his comments, since similar sentiments expressed by him can surely be found elsewhere.
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book is a transcription of a public seven-hour "conversation" between Margaret Mead and James Baldwin in 1970 at Columbia University. I had thought it would be worth reading (and went to the trouble of asking my public library to get it through interlibrary loan). I was wrong.
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am not romantic. Thanks, Jimmy.
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
A book that is a transcription is a very bad idea! This was a failure I fear.

May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Amazing dialogue between James Baldwin and Margaret Mead.
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very thought provoking.
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black, class-union, lefty
It doesn't matter how brilliant and relevant and forthright they are. I just can't read book-length transcriptions of other people's conversations.
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A clear-eyed view at race and women in America that spoke for far more than just its own time.
Dot Enns
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Mar 03, 2017
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Jul 25, 2011
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Feb 22, 2016
Nathan Bleigh
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Dec 26, 2019
rated it it was ok
Sep 28, 2019
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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

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“A great deal of what I say just leaves me open, I suppose, to a vast amount of misunderstanding. A great deal of what I say is based on an assumption which I hold and don’t always state. You know my fury about people is based precisely on the fact that I consider them to be responsible, moral creatures who so often do not act that way. But I am not surprised when they do. I am not that wretched a pessimist, and I wouldn’t sound the way I sound if I did not expect what I expect from human beings, if I didn’t have some ultimate faith and love, faith in them and love for them. You see, I am a human being too, and I have no right to stand in judgment of the world as though I am not a part of it. What I am demanding of other people is what I am demanding of myself.'
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“I have never accepted the notion that you keep a Cadillac or a yacht or anything at all, except perhaps for convenience. I have always had a quarrel with this country not only about race but about the standards by which it appears to live. People are drowning in things. They don’t even know what they want them for. They are actually useless. You can’t sleep with a yacht. You can’t make love to a Cadillac, though everyone appears to be trying to… I think the great emotional or psychological or effective lack of love and touching is the key to the American or even the Western disease.” 0 likes
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