“There are too many things we do not wish to know about ourselves. People are not, for example, terribly anxious to be equal (equal, after all, to what and to whom?), but they love the idea of being superior….Furthermore, I have met only a very few people—and most of these were not American—who had any real desire to be free….We are controlled here by our confusion, far more than we know.” — James Baldwin, “Down at the Cross,” from The Fire Next Time
In the late 1970s, James Baldwin began work on a book about three of his friends who had been murdered: Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. Passages from this unfinished, unpublished manuscript, titled Remember This House, form the basis for I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, Raoul Peck’s masterful, exhilarating documentary on Baldwin, American racism, and our threadbare construct of lies and amnesia implemented daily to forestall national self-immolation.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO
“Down at the Cross” was originally published as “Letter from a Region in My Mind” in the November 17, 1962 issue of The New Yorker, and is included in the Library of America edition James Baldwin—Collected Essays, edited by Toni Morrison.
Above image credit: Library of America.
Below: James Baldwin in France, 1970.