In January 1963, George Wallace gave his inaugural address as Governor of Alabama, during which he uttered the infamous phrase: “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”.
That August, around 250,000 people marched on Washington in support of African-American civil rights, and heard Martin Luther King, Jr give his historic “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
In the spring between these two impactful events, Boston-based broadcaster WGBH televised a programme entitled The Negro and the American Promise, featuring interviews with King, Malcolm X and author James Baldwin.
Baldwin’s section was filmed straight after his tense meeting with Attorney General Robert F Kennedy, which was organised in hope of strengthening race relations but ended without consensus.
In one clip from the WGBH programme, Baldwin declares: “The future of the negro in this country is precisely as bright, or as dark, as the future of the country.” The New York Times went on to describe his interview as “a television experience that seared the conscience”.
Raoul Peck’s latest documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, takes Baldwin as its subject, placing footage of the writer in its historical context while drawing parallels to contemporary concerns around racism in the United States.
Narrated by Samuel L Jackson, the film is adapted from Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript ‘Remember This House’ in which he recounts his memories of King, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers.
I Am Not Your Negro is released in cinemas April 7. Read the LWLies Recommends review.
Published 3 Apr 2017
Raoul Peck’s use of ‘The Blacker the Berry’ in his civil rights documentary I Am Not Your Negro is truly inspired.
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