On Friday, Raoul Peck's Oscar-nominated documentary "I Am Not Your Negro" will be released in theaters. The film, narrated in part by Samuel L. Jackson, is comprised entirely of the writings and recordings of James Baldwin, the great author and Civil Rights activist.
Baldwin had an uncanny way with words, an uncanny way of deconstructing language and, in essence, what he once described as the "performance" of American life. Few people have been able to distill the experience of being black in America like Baldwin, who so famously said,
"To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time."
In a time when the future of America feels more uncertain than ever, Baldwin's powerful insights from the past are more vital than ever. Below are 11 must-see clips of the great writer and thinker talking about race in America ― everything from the concept of the "nigger" to the prospect of an American black president. Though decades have passed since he spoke them, the words still strike a chord today:
On being called a " n****r"
He explains: "What you say about anybody else reveals you."
On how systemic racism works
On a black president
"From the point of view of the man in the Harlem barber shop, Bobby Kennedy only got here yesterday and now he is already on his way to the Presidency," Baldwin says.
"We were here for 400 years and now he tells us that maybe in 40 years, if you are good, we may let you become President."
On the "Negro Problem"
"I couldn't say, 'you do.' I don't have any evidence to prove that he does."
On unlearning the lies of racism
"What one does realize is that when you try to stand up and look the world in the face like you had a right to be here, without knowing that this is the result of it, you have attacked the entire power structure of the Western world."
On waiting for "progress"
On the future of the black American
"The future of the Negro in this country," he says, "Is precisely as bright or dark as the future of the country."
On what's truly important
"From my point of view, no label, no slogan, no party, no skin color, and indeed no religion is more important than the human being."
On American history
On the concept of non-violence
On the truth of equality
"It is not a romantic matter. It is the unutterable truth: all men are brothers. That's the bottom line."