Book Review: James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time Re-edition – First published in 1963, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time stabbed at the heart of America’s so-called “Negro problem.” As remarkable for its masterful prose as it is for its frank and personal account of the black experience in the United States, it is considered one of the most passionate and influential explorations of 1960s race relations, weaving thematic threads of love, faith, and family into a candid assault on the hypocrisy of the “land of the free.”
Now, James Baldwin’s rich, raw, and ever relevant prose is reprinted in a letterpress edition with more than 100 photographs from Steve Schapiro, who traveled the American South with Baldwin for Life magazine. The encounter thrust Schapiro into the thick of the movement, allowing for vital, often iconic, images both of civil rights leaders—including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Fred Shuttlesworth, and Jerome Smith—and such landmark events as the March on Washington and the Selma March.
Rounding out the edition are Schapiro’s stories from the field, a new introduction by civil rights legend and U.S. Congressman John Lewis, captions by Marcia Davis of The Washington Post, and an essay by Gloria Baldwin Karefa-Smart, who was with her brother James in Sierra Leone when he started to work on the story. The result is a remarkable visual and textual record of one of the most important and enduring struggles of the American experience.
The author – James Baldwin (1924–1987) was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic, and one of the most brilliant and provocative literary figures of the postwar era. His nonfiction collections, most notably Notes of a Native Son (1955) and The Fire Next Time (1963), and novels, including Giovanni’s Room (1956) and Another Country (1962), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in mid-20th-century America. A Harlem, New York, native, he primarily made his home in the south of France.
The photographer – Steve Schapiro is a distinguished photographer whose pictures have graced the covers of Vanity Fair, Time, Sports Illustrated, Life, Look, Paris Match, and People, and are found in many museum collections. He has published several books of his work, including American Edge, Schapiro’s Heroes, The Godfather Family Album, Taxi Driver, Then and Now, Bowie, and, most recently, Misericordia. Many of his iconic images have been used for the posters and ad campaigns of such classic films as Midnight Cowboy, Taxi Driver, The Way We Were, and Godfather Part III.
The contributing authors:
Congressman John Lewis (b. 1940) played a key role in the struggle to end segregation—as a Freedom Rider, the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and an organizer of the March on Washington—and continues to serve as a prominent voice for social justice. He is the recipient of the Lincoln Medal, the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Lifetime Achievement Award, and the NAACP Spingarn Medal, among many other honors.
Gloria Karefa-Smart was born Gloria Esther Baldwin in Harlem. She traveled widely with her brother James and is the literary executor of his estate. She has lived in Freetown, Sierra Leone; New York’s Upper West Side; and Washington, D.C., where she still resides, and is the mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother of 22.
Marcia Davis is an articles editor and writer for The Washington Post Magazine. A native of St. Louis, she has held multiple jobs at The Post, where she helped lead the coverage of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in 2014. She also worked at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and was senior editor of Emerge magazine.
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