James Baldwin’s Words Shine in ‘I Am Not Your Negro’

A nominee for this year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary, Raoul Peck’s film “I Am Not Your Negro” adapts the unfinished 30-page manuscript “Remember This House” written by James Baldwin, acclaimed author and Civil Rights activist.

The film, which is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, uses Baldwin’s words to reflect on the experience of being a black person in America as told through the reactions to the deaths of civil rights luminaries Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers.

Peck provides a visual representation of Baldwin’s prophetic and hard-hitting perspective on the black experience, using video clips from Baldwin’s past interviews intertwined with imagery from the Civil Rights movement of the twentieth century and the modern-day Black Lives Matter movement.

In his book, Baldwin questions the very foundation of the power structure that perpetuates white supremacy in the Western world while also contemplating the role of a black person navigating in a white-dominated society.

“If any white man in the world says, ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’ the entire white world applauds. When a black man says exactly the same thing, he is judged a criminal and treated like one and everything possible is done to make an example of this bad nigger so there won’t be any more like him.” – James Baldwin

The fact that Baldwin’s commentary on race relations in America resonates greatly with the current state of American society, where racial tension is still a major problem, makes it such a timely piece of cinema that shows that there is still work to be done towards a better future.

Through his analysis of many famous examples of the treatment and depiction of African-Americans in history, Baldwin urges Americans to confront the grim reality of their history and set out to change the ways of the past.

The timeless and powerful truth of Baldwin’s words only further exemplify the brilliance of the man who dared to question the system of racial discrimination in America.

“I Am Not Your Negro” opened in theaters nationwide on Friday.

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