Join Professor Eddie Glaude Jr. as he reads from his forthcoming book Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own.
"As I looked out onto the ruins and thought of the election of Donald Trump and the ugliness that consumed my country, I asked myself: What do you do when you have lost faith in the place you call home? That wasn't quite the right way to put it: I never really had faith in the United States in the strongest sense of the word. I hoped that one day white people here would finally leave behind the belief that they mattered more. But what do you do when this glimmer of hope fades, and you are left with the belief that white people will never change—that the country, no matter what we do, will remain basically the same?
Amid the rubble of the construction site and the signs promising luxurious living, I thought of Baldwin's witness in his later years as an answer to my questions and part of the reason why I needed to write this book. He grappled with profound disillusionment after the murder of Dr. King and yet held on to his faith in the possibility of a moment when we could all be fully ourselves, what he referred to as a New Jerusalem. I had to understand how he did that, and what resources, as he confronted his dark America, he might offer me as I confront the darkness of my own.
In the documentary James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket, Baldwin's brother David powerfully recounted Jimmy's summation of his life; in that, I heard what I needed to do:
I pray I've done my work...when I've gone from here, and all the turmoil, through the wreckage and rubble, and through whatever, when someone finds themselves digging through the ruins,...I pray that somewhere in that wreckage they'll find me, somewhere in that wreckage that they use something I've left behind.
I started digging, and Begin Again is what I found."
Hear more from Glaude's reading here.