James Baldwin = Part 2

We at LBA had the opportunity to re-screen the James Baldwin film. This months contributor is David Walter, who is one of the founders of LBA.

This is his view on the film and it’s place in history and modern times.

James Baldwin (1924–1987) was one of the most prolific writers of his generation, and his observations of the Civil Rights movement has made him one of the most celebrated writers on everything from gay rights to the Black Power movement in America. His own personal reflections including his discovery of his own self-image is worthy of any twilight zone episode when he makes a realisation that when he was cheering for the white cowboys shooting the Indians on TV, he realises later that he is the Indian. Philip K Dick a celebrated science Fiction writer couldn’t have come up with a more disturbing plot.


The 5th Anniversary: James Baldwin ‘I am not your Negro’ is a celebration of a highly intellectual and highly skilled debater who’s legacy on race politics and on issues of sexuality still influence contemporary audiences to this day. The film stretches over 50 years of his life and also engages his own personal struggles and revelations which has given him his personal and socially scientific views that helps us to try to understand what the civil right movement was all about and his reason for moving to Paris.

The documentary was complex and highly relevant to contemporary times and demands more research. The full James Baldwin Debates William F. Buckley (1965) film can be seen in full. The views held by Buckley have been challenge over the years and the view on the history of the African American experience is made with more humanity and clarity. The point of the documentary is to engage us as viewers and get to grips with realities and complexity of racism and the black experience of enslavement, oppression and dare I say implicitness of some sections of the Pan African society in the establishment of white supremacy.

In paraphrasing, James Baldwin says to all of us, that we can no longer ignore the reality and continue to live in the delusions that white supremacy has created for Americans, but not just in America but also in the rest of the world where American culture has gained popularity.

The question and Answer session as much more revealing how complex Baldwin’s views and opinions really are and the desire by the audience to make a comparative analysis, is not a mistake, but would confuse further debate over Racism and the British Empire and black British people need to properly acquaint themselves with British colonial history and American Society, before making any comparisons. The histories are fundamentally different, but have common threads that held to create the contemporary world that we recognise today.


As David Olusoga, explained in an interview, that when we think of the image of Slavery, we think of ‘cotton fields and big white houses, down the avenue’ which was typical of the Southern states of the USA (https://youtu.be/TjCRplJkabw).  This image was not a typical sight in the Caribbean and the processing of the materials was more proto industrial.

The understanding of our history under the British Empire is the key to understanding for us who live outside the USA to our connection to US racism, which continued through the changing face of American society and African Americans relationship with it.

Questions raised will challenge the very concept of black identity, and it will be difficult when we face the delusions and antagonisms and the political and cultural terrorism that shaped our ideas of black identity, if we face the reality of challenging racism anywhere in the world.

James Baldwin has given us a second chance to go back to square one and truly think about issues that plagues us to this very day.  The 5th Anniversary: James Baldwin ‘I am not your Negro’ is an excellent documentary and is the kind of films that keep me rooted and keep me interested in the reality of our human lives. It was a breath of fresh air.

I would like to thank LBA for giving the space and the opportunity to see this film and explore the issues raised in that Baldwin raises.




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