Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own

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Crown, 2020 - Social Science - 239 pages
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James Baldwin grew disillusioned by the failure of the Civil Rights movement to force America to confront its lies about race. In the era of Trump, what can we learn from his struggle?

"Not everything is lost. Responsibility cannot be lost, it can only be abdicated. If one refuses abdication, one begins again." --James Baldwin

We live, according to Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., in the after times, when the promise of Black Lives Matter and the attempt to achieve a new America were challenged by the election of Donald Trump, a racist president whose victory represents yet another failure of America to face the lies it tells itself about race.

We have been here before: For James Baldwin, the after times came in the wake of the Civil Rights movement, when a similar attempt to compel a national confrontation with the truth was answered with the murders of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. In these years, spanning from the publication of The Fire Next Time in 1963 to that of No Name in the Street in 1972, Baldwin was transformed into a more overtly political writer, a change that came at great professional and personal cost. But from that journey, Baldwin emerged with a sense of renewed purpose about the necessity of pushing forward in the face of disillusionment and despair.

In the story of Baldwin's crucible, Glaude suggests, we can find hope and guidance through our own after times, this Trumpian era of shattered promises and white retrenchment. Mixing biography--drawn partially from newly uncovered interviews--with history, memoir, and trenchant analysis of our current moment, Begin Again is Glaude's attempt, following Baldwin, to bear witness to the difficult truth of race in America today. It is at once a searing exploration that lays bare the tangled web of race, trauma, and memory, and a powerful interrogation of what we all must ask of ourselves in order to call forth a new America.

 

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User Review  - Elizabeth80 - LibraryThing

One of the hardest books I have ever read. I lived through the times but as a white person was thoughtlessly ignorant -- even when I worked for 40 years in an integrated school system. Read full review

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User Review  - sethwilpan - LibraryThing

I got about half way through this 200 page book and had to admit that it was giving me very little sense of who Baldwin was. There were some interesting historical anecdotes, but they were note bound ... Read full review

Contents

The Lie
3
Witness
29
The Dangerous Road
56
The Reckoning
85
Elsewhere
116
Ruins
146
Begin Again
176
CONCLUSION A New America
207
Authors Note
219
Acknowledgments
229
Index
233
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About the author (2020)

Eddie S. Glaude Jr. is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Princeton University and author of Democracy in Black.

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