– James Baldwin – in conversation with Elsa Knight Thompson and John Leonard – August 1, 1963 – KPFK-FM, Los Angeles –
Author James Baldwin, in conversation with Elsa Knight Thompson and John Leonard at KPFK in Los Angeles. The subject is Politics, literature, the racial climate in America and the critics who attacked his latest novel, Another Country.
1963 was a pivotal year for many things – upheaval, change, great tragedy. At the forefront was the issue of Race in America. The peaceful protests were turning violent, not so much by the protestors as those feeling protested against, particularly in the South. One of the critical points were the demonstrations turning violent in Birmingham Alabama, where peaceful protests advocated by Dr. Martin Luther King were coming into question by many in the Black community. The early 60s brought about the wave of “lunch counter protests”, where racist Whites taunted and attacked Black protestors who quietly sat at otherwise segregated lunch counters.
But with Federal intervention in the area of School desegregation, the fears and hatred from Whites resulted in beatings, shootings and the deaths of numerous protestors as well as those working to organize those protests. Birmingham served as something of a flash point, and those who observed it felt turning the other cheek had gone on long enough.
James Baldwin, a celebrated Black author whose works spoke largely of the racial issues and conflicts in America turned much of his energies into activism. Starting in 1963 and for much of the 1960s, Baldwin took his message on several nationwide tours of American campuses – everything from high schools to Universities. Delivering lectures and one-on-one talks on Race in America to thousands of students. I ran one of those lectures, given at an Oakland High School some years back. In addition to his deep commitment to the Civil Rights movement, he continued to be one of America’s most eloquent and celebrated writers.
Here is Author/Activist James Baldwin in conversation with KPFK’s Elsa Knight Thompson and John Leonard from August 1, 1963.
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