James Baldwin left an indelible mark on the face of Western politics and culture. Novels like Go Tell it on a Mountain, Giovanni’s Room and Another Country were groundbreaking when they were first published in the 1950s and ’60s, and Baldwin’s work continues to resonate. The 2018 cinematic release of If Beale Street Could Talk, based on Baldwin’s novel of the same name, is the latest testament to his enduring relevance and popularity.
Our final episode of the year features Bill V. Mullen, author of James Baldwin: Living in Fire (Pluto, 2019) in conversation with Megan Maxine Williams, a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at Purdue University.
Bill and Megan explore the evolution of Baldwin’s radical politics – expressed both on the page, and in his activism as a public intellectual – and consider his renewed relevance in the context of Black Lives Matter and police violence.
They consider his early advocacy of an ‘indigenous’ socialism in the US, his role in the civil rights movement, and his appraisal of Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party. Bill and Megan also discuss Baldwin’s sexuality and the influence of Black feminists such as Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni and Lorraine Hansberry on the development of his gender politics.