Under The Spell Of Baldwin

Darryl Pinckney writes: ‘When James Baldwin died in 1987, at the age of sixty-three, he was seen as a spent force, a witness for the civil rights movement who had outlived his moment. Baldwin didn’t know when to shut up about the sins of the West and he went on about them in prose that seemed to lack the grace of voice that had made him famous. But that was the view of him mostly on the white side of town. Ever-militant Amiri Baraka, once scornful of Baldwin as a darling of white liberals, praised “Jimmy” in his eulogy as the creator of a contemporary American speech that we needed in order to talk to one another. Black people have always forgiven and taken back into the tribe the black stars who got kicked out of The Man’s heaven. Baldwin left behind more than enough keepers of his flame.’

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