James Baldwin: Witty, Fiery in Berkeley, 1979

Hot on the heels of Inde­pen­dence Day, here’s a chance to lis­ten to one of Amer­i­ca’s best writ­ers declar­ing his own form of Inde­pen­dence — a free­dom from some of the more trou­bling assump­tions embed­ded in the Eng­lish lan­guage. Start­ing with a dry, mild ques­tion­ing of phras­es like “black as night,” “black-heart­ed,” and “black as sin,” Bald­win turns quick­ly to a cri­tique of the name of the civ­il rights move­ment itself, which he sug­gests would be more accu­rate­ly described as a slave rebel­lion.

The log­ic and elo­quence with which Bald­win makes his case is much bet­ter savored than explained. Enjoy the clip, and espe­cial­ly make sure not to miss his remarks on Huck Finn at minute 3:00, or the love­ly descrip­tion of Mal­colm X at about minute 5:00. And, to be sure, we’ll add this to our col­lec­tion of Cul­tur­al Icons.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Great Cul­tur­al Icons Talk Civ­il Rights

Mal­colm X at Oxford, 1964

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.