The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin is a short collection of essays that was first published in 1963. The first is called “My dungeon shook: letter to my nephew on the 100th anniversary of emancipation” and it’s a letter that James Baldwin wrote to his nephew on the 100th anniversary of emancipation. The message to his nephew is that he has been born into circumstances that limit his opportunities and it’s because he’s black and for no other reason. Everything in his life has been set up for him to believe what white people say about him. You might expect him to jump in and say and “Don’t believe any of that”, but what he’s trying to do is provide a context for his nephew so he can understand the reality that he’s facing and the root of the problem which is that white Americans are stuck in history they don’t understand and we cannot be free of it until we understand it. I thought this first segment in the book was powerful because he touches of the status of our country. Baldwin writes: “This is your home, my friend, do not be driven from it; great men have done great things here, and will again, and we can make America what America must become.”
It is similar to Trump’s red-hatted mantra – but there’s a big difference between trying to make America “great again” and focusing on what it once was, rather than what it “must become”. This letter made me reflect on the state of our country, and the words Baldwin wrote are as relevant as ever. The second essay is titled: “Down at the cross: A letter from a region of my mind.” The essay itself displays the same themes as the letter, but mainly focusing on religion, and the role that is plays in race in America. He talks about his struggle with religion, and how it is tied to growing up and finding a place where he belongs. next time and one of them is a way he describes this coming of age and realizing that very little separated him from a life of crime or life on the streets he becomes aware as he describes it “the evil within and the evil around him.”
I think this part especially can be something students of my age can relate to, especially the part about trying to find a place where you belong, his being the church.He goes on to realize the church supports a hypocrisy among white people that allows us to not live as we say we do as our morals demand and to hide that even from ourselves. How then can the church expect African Americans to adopt these values? There is so much to cover with this section of the book because it makes up the bulk of this collection.
One of the final and most prominent arguments in the book is this : “ If white people could learn to love themselves and each other, there would be no race problem in America, because it would no longer be needed. He knows that he’s asking for the impossible, but he says: “What is human history and especially African American history but the perpetual achievement of the impossible.” The Fire Next Time is one of those books were in simply trying to describe it you use more words there in the book itself. It’s just so dense that I ended up underlining practically every word. I think the fire next time is a must read especially for Americans. It’s as relevant now as it’s ever been.
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