As President-elect Donald Trump slithers into the highest office in the land, one question keeps coming up in mind: What Would James Baldwin Do?
One of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century, Baldwin articulated the problem of race in America better than probably anyone ever or since. And he was unapologetically gay—his 1956 novel, Giovanni’s Room, was a masterpiece of queer literature.
A new documentary revives Baldwin’s genius for cultural analysis and critique in a time when it is needed more than ever: Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro seeks to recreate Baldwin’s last, unfinished work: a project called “Remember This House,” chronicling the lives of his slain friends, civil-rights activists Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
At the time of his death in 1987, Baldwin had completed only 30 pages. But with unprecedented access to the author’s archives, Peck has pieced together a brilliant treatise on the current state of America in Baldwin’s own words.
“If any white man in the world says ’Give me liberty or give me death,’ the whole white word stands up in applause,” Baldwin declares in the trailer below. “But if a black man says exactly the same thing, he is judged a criminal—and treated like one.”
Through archival footage and a wonderful narration by Samuel L. Jackson, I Am Not Your Negro tells the story of this country and the sins that lie just beneath “the land of the free,” offering difficult solutions to unite these fractured United States.
Simply, this is the film we all need right now.