James Baldwin BBC Bookshelf Program Interview (1963)

James Baldwin appears on the BBC program Bookshelf . Here he explains his writing ,influences, and the the state of race relations in America. Baldwin states in the interview “if I’m a novelist with a message it is only one….. the effort people have to make to deal with others as human beings.” African Americans have been dehumanized for so long Baldwin reveals that white people can hardly sympathize with their plight. American society had isolated communities into a system of racial segregation. James Baldwin through his novels exposed the hypocrisy of America’s Christian morality. Many racists called themselves good American Christians while vituperating and preaching hate against African Americans. James Baldwin also criticizes the white liberal as being naive about the nature of the struggle. The interviewer seems to have a limited understanding as well. He asked how Baldwin got his surname and he explains that the name was of the white slave owner. The enslaved did not get to keep their African names. James Baldwin reveals that the first book he read was Uncle Tom’s Cabin . Slavery was something Baldwin reveals was subject  not discussed much in his household or school growing up. As he matured, Baldwin recognized the injustices of the society  and used his writing talent to fight it. Baldwin articulates that we must learn to understand other peoples’ suffering. Doing so can help people of different backgrounds become more empathetic.  Being a prodigious writer he produced Giovanni’ Room and Go Tell It To The Mountain. These novels explored themes of race relations, sexual orientation, and the contradiction of American society.      

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