Why Did ABC Hide James Baldwin’s 1979 Interview?
Too much truth at once.
James Baldwin has always been considered a literary giant.
A man who could be buried in a crowd at 5ft 6in, it was what came out his mouth that people feared the most. Like when he attended the March on Washington in 1963 but was denied the opportunity to speak for what he might say.
With works like Giovanni’s Room (1965) and If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), James Baldwin has never been afraid to speak his truth. A black man born in Harlem in 1924, he released 42 books from 1953–2015 and his works are a reflection of the times.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”-James Balwin
A novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic his issues with racial injustice are those that he lived or witnessed first hand. So when producer Joseph Lovett was handed the opportunity to profile James Baldwin in 1979, he jumped on it. The interview was conducted by the late Sylvia Chase and took place in the Manhattan apartment building Mr. Baldwin purchased for his family in 1965.
“I don’t know you personally. But I know you historically,” James Baldwin tells interviewer Chase. He understood the price to be black in this country was criminal and that he no longer believed in the service and power of America. “ You can’t swear to the freedom of all mankind and then put me in chains.” When Chase mentions that Baldwin makes it seem like slavery put a curse on America, he responds:
“America’s sense of reality is dictated by what it is trying to avoid and if you’re trying to avoid reality how can you face it?”
This is America summed up so eloquently and raw. James Baldwin was not ahead of his time. He lived and was so absorbed in it that writing about it felt just like breathing. He had to get it out. And over 40 years later here we still stand.