My weak, deluded scruples could avail nothing against the iron word of the prophet. In 1949 Baldwin met and fell in love with Lucien Happersberger, a man aged 17, though Happersberger's marriage three years later left Baldwin distraught. Power was the subject of the speeches I heard. He continued to experiment with literary forms throughout his career, publishing poetry and plays as well as the fiction and essays for which he was known. I hope I will never be that naive again. There are too many things we do not wish to know about ourselves. For everyone else has, is, a nation, with a specific location and a flag—even, these days, the Jew.
Around the time of publication of The Fire Next Time, Baldwin became a known spokesperson for civil rights and a celebrity noted for championing the cause of black Americans. And if I were a Muslim, I would not hesitate to utilize—or, indeed, to exacerbate—the social and spiritual discontent that reigns here, for, at the very worst, I would merely have contributed to the destruction of a house I hated, and it would not matter if I perished, too. It was also during this time that Baldwin began to write seriously. They remained friends for more than twenty years. He proves that by his own actions.
That was the most frightening time of my life, and quite the most dishonest, and the resulting hysteria lent great passion to my sermons—for a while. It is for this reason that love is so desperately sought and so cunningly avoided. Negro servants have been smuggling odds and ends out of white homes for generations, and white people have been delighted to have them do it, because it has assuaged a dim guilt and testified to the intrinsic superiority of white people. It is one of Baldwin's sermons on the importance of choosing love over security. James attended Public School 24 in Harlem, where he met a young white teacher named Orilla Miller. It is very hard to believe that those men and women, raising their children, eating their greens, crying their curses, weeping their tears, singing their songs, making their love, as the sun rose, as the sun set, were in any way inferior to the white men and women who crept over to share these splendors after the sun went down.
The first of these three points is a personal perspective on the experience of being a Negro in America at that time. The crowd seemed to swallow this theology with no effort—all crowds do swallow theology this way, I gather, in both sides of Jerusalem, in Istanbul, and in Rome—and, as theology goes, it was no more indigestible than the more familiar brand asserting that there is a curse on the sons of Ham. And I also knew by now, alas, far more about divine inspiration than I dared admit, for I knew how I worked myself up into my own visions, and how frequently—indeed, incessantly—the visions God granted to me differed from the visions He granted to my father. In the case of the girls, one watched them turning into matrons before they had become women. No doubt I am guilty of some injustice here, but it is irreducible, since I cannot risk assuming that the humanity of these people is more real to them than their uniforms.
What determines the two-part structure of the book? After all, I had seen men dragged from their platforms on this very corner for saying less virulent things, and I had seen many crowds dispersed by policemen, with clubs or on horseback. To defend oneself against a fear is simply to insure that one will, one day, be conquered by it; fears must be faced. This is significant because it serves as yet another reminder to James that he is the descendant of a severely oppressed people. James and Beuford scraped together enough money for a funeral service, held on James's birthday. Marking the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Baldwin takes stock of the harsh reality of social progress since. What I saw around me that summer in Harlem was what I had always seen; nothing had changed.
But in order to change a situation one has first to see it for what it is: in the present case, to accept the fact, whatever one does with it thereafter, that the Negro has been formed by this nation, for better or for worse, and does not belong to any other-—not to Africa, and certainly not to Islam. But what was the point, the purpose, of my salvation if it did not permit me to behave with love toward others, no matter how they behaved toward me? Although he had an initially favorable impression of Elijah, who struck him as a kind and genuine man, he disagreed with most of his politics. He made me think of my father and me as we might have been if we had been friends. I was told by a minister, for example, that I should never, on any public conveyance, under any circumstances, rise and give my seat to a white woman. What other instances, in both books, of this argument can you cite? He became, for me, an example of courage and integrity, humility and passion.
The other young men in attendance at the dinner are, in many ways, portrayed similarly to the author's nephew. However, he became dissatisfied with ministry, considering it hypocritical and racist, and ultimately left the church because his father's expectation was that he be a preacher. Together these two techniques combine to form a collection of essays on what blackness This is a very important part of the book because it shows the reader that the author even though he has been suppressed by whites understands that one day we have to live in unity. And Elijah himself had a further, unnerving habit, which was to ricochet his questions and comments off someone else on their way to you. Perhaps we were, all of us—pimps, whores, racketeers, church members, and children—bound together by the nature of our oppression, the specific and peculiar complex of risks we had to run; if so, within these limits we sometimes achieved with each other a freedom that was close to love. There are some wars, for example if anyone on the globe is still mad enough to go to war that the American Negro will not support, however many of his people may be coerced—and there is a limit to the number of people any government can put in prison, and a rigid limit indeed to the practicality of such a course.
I refused, even though I no longer had any illusions about what an education could do for me; I had already encountered too many college-graduate handymen. New York: Oxford University Press. I was in something of a bind, for I really could not say—could not allow myself to be stampeded into saying—that I was a Christian. Black men were never in such a condition. Throughout the text, Baldwin uses. I had heard a great deal, long before I finally met him, of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and of the Nation of Islam movement, of which he is the leader.