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50 Years Of NPR

The Best Of James Baldwin: Favorite Pieces From The NPR Archive

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James Baldwin, circa 1979.
Ralph Gatti, AFP via Getty Images

James Baldwin, circa 1979.

We are marking a milestone, 50 years of NPR, with a look back at stories from the archive.

James Baldwin discusses cinema's role in perpetuating myths about American history and culture. "History is not a matter of the past. It's a matter of the present," he warns.

From the program Voices in the Wind (May 30, 1976)

It is early August. A black man is shot by a white policeman. And the effect on the community is of "a lit match in a tin of gasoline."

No, this is not Ferguson, Mo. This was Harlem in August 1943, a period that James Baldwin writes about in the essay that gives its title to his seminal collection, Notes of a Native Son.

From All Things Considered (August 19, 2014)

In the course of his work, James Baldwin got to know the civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. He was devastated when each man was assassinated, and planned, later in life, to write a book about all three of them.

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Though Baldwin died in 1987 before that book could be written, the new Oscar-nominated documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, draws on his notes for the book, as well as from other of Baldwin's writings.

From Fresh Air (February 14, 2017)

James Baldwin believed that America has been lying to itself since its founding. He wrote, spoke, and thought incessantly about the societal issues that still exist today. As the United States continues to reckon with its history of systemic racism and police brutality, Eddie S. Glaude Jr. guides us through the meaning and purpose of James Baldwin's work and how his words can help us navigate the current moment.

From Throughline (April 29, 2021)
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