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Baldwin, James. Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind
1963, in: The Fire Next Time. Penguin Classics. pp. 3-22
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Added by: Suddha Guharoy, Andreas Sorger

Whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.

Comment: Published in 1963, this essay offers a scathing attack on the racist history of America and its contemporary present in the 1960s. The text provides a trenchant critique of the way racism has shaped, and continues to shape, relations between whites and blacks in American society by suggesting that whites are trapped by a history they refuse to acknowledge – thereby making them unable to conceive of black Americans as their fellow co-citizens. Thus, for Baldwin, it is imperative that whites are made to recognise this history, as a failure to do so will inevitably result in an outbreak of violence. It is a compelling narrative of various quotidian as well as extraordinary incidents interwoven with local and international political causes and repercussions.

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