I am a man

Here, James Baldwin talks about Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and the future of the nation: what must white people do?

The future of the negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country. It is entirely up to the American people… whether or not they are going to face and deal with and embrace this stranger on whom they relied so long. What white people have to do is try to find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place. Because I am not a nigger. I am a man. But if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it. So the question you’ve got to ask yourself, that the white population of this country’s got to ask itself… if I’m not the nigger here, and you invented it, you the white people invented it, then you have to find out why. Because the future of the country depends on that, whether or not it’s able to ask that question… simply to face that question.

[Via Charcoal Ink, but any transcription errors entirely my own.]

Kenneth Clark’s interview with James Baldwin is accessible in its entirety at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/mlk/sfeature/sf_video.html both in streaming video, and in written transcript form.

The interview was conducted on May 24, 1963, immediately following a historic meeting between Baldwin, Black writer Lorraine Hansberry (and possibly others) with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The interview was broadcast less than a week later.

In addition to this interview there are also interviews with Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, in video and transcript forms, on that same page. The interviews were broadcast on Boston public television at the height of racial strife as the civil rights struggle in the usa started to gain momentum.

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