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coverThe Fire Next Time

by James Baldwin

Baldwin is one of the most profound black writers of the 20th Century, and in his narrative he critiques America, racism and separatism, and uses his wit and pathos to deal with the questions of separation, nationalism and competing racial ideologies. James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time is a very eloquent and powerful story about growing up on the streets of Harlem and his struggle to remain on a positive path, to avoid the lure of drugs, crime and prostitution.

Baldwin’s critique is also a broadside toward the Nation of Islam, which preached complete separation from the white man and establishing a black state. One important fact to bear in mind when comparing Malcolm X and James Baldwin is that for all their differences, both men achieved in white America despite America. Compared to Malcolm X, Baldwin may seem like an apologist for white America. However, Baldwin was just as fiery, eloquent and vociferous in his criticisms of American racism as Malcolm. If not as radical, Baldwin’s essays, especially My Dungeon Shook, capture the quiet resistance that black Americans have always asserted in the face of white oppression, even if they could not always openly display it. As a result, Baldwin’s political ideology is a more all-encompassing unified view of struggle that does not discount those who came before or the more conservative ways of fighting racism that were being espoused in his time.

Click here to read an essay on Malcolm X.

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