In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, to be called Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. But at the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only 30 completed pages of his manuscript.
Raoul Peck’s 2017 film I Am Not Your Negro envisions the book Baldwin never finished. It is a radical examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words (spoken by Samuel L. Jackson) and a flood of rich archival material. This is a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter. It is a film that questions black representation in Hollywood and beyond. And, ultimately, by confronting the deeper connections between the lives and assassination of these three leaders, Baldwin and Peck have produced a work that challenges the very definition of what America stands for.
I Am Not Your Negro was a box-office hit and a nominee for the Academy Award for Best Documentary. The film comes to PBS’s Independent Lens on Jan. 15. It will be available for online viewing on the site beginning Jan. 16.
Paste also strongly recommends this beautiful piece by Shannon Houston.