Eddie Glaude, Jr. on What James Baldwin’s America Teaches
This Week from the Big Table Podcast
Big Table is a half-hour arts program/podcast, an exploration into art and culture as told through interviews with authors and artists, conducted and curated by writer, editor, and publisher J.C. Gabel and a small cast of contributors.
On this week’s episode, professor and critic Eddie Glaude, Jr. discusses his latest book Begin Again (Crown), an intellectual look at James Baldwin’s most potent political writing from The Fire Next Time to No Name in the Street.
From the episode:
Eddie Glaude, Jr. No Name in the Street is the first book written after Martin Luther King’s assassination. He did a few journalistic pieces. He did the conversation with Margaret Mead and with Nikki Giovanni. But this is the book that emerged out of the collapse. So he collapses in ’69 as a result of a failed relationship, as well as the kind of betrayal that King’s murder represented. He tried to find something at the level of form and at the level of content to respond to what he had experienced and what he was seeing. So as I was teaching Baldwin, trying to get my students to see the evolution of his thinking, this emerged that it’s not a declensions story. That’s what the older scholarship was suggesting, right?
That Baldwin’s work was after 1963, as James Campbell would say, his voice broke, that he became bitter and angry and too polemical and been kind of seduced by black power or the desire to remain the center of literary attention and the like had all compromised his art or its aesthetics. I just saw something very different. What does it mean to write in a moment where the nation has fundamentally turned its back on the promise of the civil rights movement? What does it mean to write in after time of this very compressed period as the nation not only elects Richard Nixon, but eventually elects Ronald Reagan for someone for whom for many activists someone as bad as as as George Wallace.
A co-production between Hat & Beard, Dublab, and Gold-Diggers in Los Angeles, Big Table is dedicated to the interviewing style and enduring memory of Studs Terkel, the Chicago oral historian, actor, activist, TV pioneer, and long-time radio host and author. You can learn more about Studs’ work here. Big Table is the first digital initiative of Invisible Republic, a nonprofit arts organization working in coordination with Future Roots, Inc.
Eddie S. Glaude Jr. is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Princeton University and author of Democracy in Black.