I Am Not Your Negro

The recent police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The subsequent protests that have swept across the United States and around the world. BlackLivesMatter. The recent passing of civil rights giant and Congressman John Lewis. Race and racism, whether we like it or not, have been thrust to the forefront like never before.

I think a lot of us are doing some reflecting on racism–and reading about it too. Check out WPL’s recently-created Diverse Voices lists of reading and viewing suggestions for adults, teens and children.

I just watched a powerful and thought-provoking DVD, I am Not Your Negro. Have a look at the official trailer.

During the 1950s and 1960s, acclaimed American author James Baldwin (1924-1987) travelled extensively in the United States, observing and reporting on the civil rights movement — acting, as he put it, as a witness. He spoke frequently on college campuses, took part in debates and appeared on TV talk shows. This stylishly-made film consists of contemporary interviews with Baldwin and of his words, spoken by the actor Samuel L. Jackson.

Framed alongside Baldwin’s words are images of the civil rights era. Some of these images will chill and horrify you, and some are sadly, depressingly all too familiar. Baldwin was acquainted with three giants of the civil rights movement (Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.) and he reflects on their lives in the film.

Juxtaposed with these historical images are more recent ones (the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, for example). It makes you wonder just how much progress has actually been made.

James Baldwin was an acute observer. The critique he serves up of America, past and present, is blistering. Not one to sugar-coat his views in order to appease anyone, Baldwin’s words are as insightful and incisive as the day they were spoken.

I am Not Your Negro is truly a must-see.

— Penny D.