The Fire Next Time James Baldwin Introduction Background Discussion Starters The Fire Next Time James Baldwin The Fire Next Time: Introduction If the world expects you to act a certain way, should you live up to its expectations? Or can you find a way to be yourself? The Fire Next Time: Introduction The Fire Next Time is a series of essays written by James Baldwin in the early 1960s. In the first essay, Baldwin writes a letter to his fifteen-year-old nephew. He is worried about his nephew’s future. The Fire Next Time: Introduction In the 1960s, it is very difficult to be a young African American man. Many African Americans find living in America frustrating and humiliating. There is much prejudice. There is much discrimination. The Fire Next Time: Introduction In his own youth, Baldwin faced a similar crisis about who he could be in America. He feared and hated his father. He didn’t know what to do with his life. The Fire Next Time: Introduction He knew what America expected him to become— a man living in poverty; an angry, violent African American man on the streets. Lost. The Fire Next Time: Introduction But Baldwin believed African Americans should not accept this version of their identity, and that they should work for an America in which everyone is equal. The Fire Next Time: Background Baldwin uses the one- hundreth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation as a way to introduce his concerns to his nephew. In 1863, President Lincoln had proclaimed all African American slaves free. The Fire Next Time: Background But freedom from slavery was not the same as freedom from prejudice, oppression, segregation, and hatred. African Americans faced all kinds of public and private discrimination in the years after the Civil War. The Fire Next Time: Background In the 1950s and 1960s, however, leaders emerged to push the issue of civil rights as never before. Important events included: 1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a segregated bus. 1963: Martin Luther King, Jr., gives his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The Fire Next Time: Background James Baldwin was part of this civil rights movement. His works speak openly about the causes and effects of racism and encouraged people to confront and discuss these issues. The Fire Next Time: Background In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed, which gives equal access to public places. It also prohibits discrimination in employment. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed the poll tax and other methods intended to discriminate against voters. The Fire Next Time: Background Yet despite these gains, the struggle for full civil rights continued and resulted in conflict and violence as well as progress. The Fire Next Time: Background In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. Robert F. Kennedy, one of the movement’s most important political figures, was also assassinated. By the end of the 1960s, many civil rights efforts turned violent as race riots erupted in major cities. The Fire Next Time: Discussion Starters Discuss (1) • How did the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s change American society? • How has American society changed since? How have these changes affected relationships between races? The Fire Next Time: Discussion Starters Discuss (2) • Do you think racial stereotypes still exist in the United States? • If so, how are people working to overthrow these stereotypes?