From the Archive: James Baldwin in Conversation with Studs Terkel

Daniel Hautzinger
James Baldwin in the crowd. March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 28 August 1963, Washington. Photo: Dan Budnik
James Baldwin in the crowd. March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 28 August 1963, Washington. Photo: Dan Budnik

Independent Lens broadcasts I Am Not Your Negro on Monday, January 15 at 9:00 pm.

The documentary I Am Not Your Negro takes as its starting point an unfinished book by the magisterial writer James Baldwin about his friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr., and their assassinations, featuring Baldwin's searing words read by Samuel L. Jackson. Baldwin's incisive examinations of America and race are as cogent and relevant today as they were in his own lifetime, as the film makes clear, and we can never hear enough from him.

Here is a recording of a 1961 conversation (in two parts) between Baldwin and Studs Terkel, broadcast on Studs's radio program in between the publication of Baldwin's book of essays Nobody Knows My Name and his upcoming 1962 novel Another Country. Baldwin eloquently discusses Bessie Smith, the psychological plight of the African American man, America's blindness about its past, the clarity living abroad brought him, America's terrifying materialism, and much more; pulling quotes is impossible, given that nearly everything he says is worth remembering. As Studs says at the end, Baldwin "confessed in a very beautiful way." We would do well to listen.

The recordings appear courtesy of the Studs Terkel Radio Archive, which is a partnership between the WFMT Radio Network and the Chicago History Museum.


From the Archive
Studs Terkel
James Baldwin