I Am Not Your Negro: A Review

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I am always on the lookout for terrific documentaries that are, um, streaming for free. And, often enough, appropriate for my kids—who are ten and almost twelve. (Share documentaries with us!)

We just watched a great documentary this summer! Though I love James Baldwin (Read Go Tell It On The Mountain immediately!), I never knew he left an unfinished book called Remember This House. The book would be a memoir about Baldwin’s own experiences with Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. The memoir is the basis for this documentary, I Am Not Your Negro. All of these highly articulate, thoughtful, personal moments from James Baldwin: it’s a treasure!

What a glimpse of history. My kids were subjected to a viewing, and I think they pretty much missed its significance—though it serves as an introduction to the Civil Rights Movement. Besides the three icons, there are cameos of people ranging from Bob Dylan to Bobbie Kennedy, from Lorraine Hansberry to Sidney Poitier, from J. Edgar Hoover to the Black Panthers. All the while, Baldwin’s ideas are narrated by my fave, Samuel L. Jackson.

There are many, many profundities here. Baldwin was crazy-smart. A true intellectual. His nonfiction is pretty difficult for me, but worth navigating. Lately, I have, in all honesty, found him a little unfair in his well-known dismissal of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. However, some of his ideas are stunning. One standout scene is his appearance on the Dick Cavett Show, from June 13, 1968. Intellectually rigorous, he explores race in profound ways. Though he says it differently, Baldwin really spells out how racism is the American narrative. He points out how this is a narrative about brothers. Some of the final moments in the film are the most impressive.

I highly recommend this one!


I just wanted to give a little shout-out for our NEW/JUST BEGINNING Sunday School Class at Roosevelt. Bob Korijan is leading a study on the Westminster Confession of Faith (written after five years of theological debate in 1646, and commissioned by the government of England), which is often considered the “high watermark” of the Protestant Reformation. We’re going through it chapter by chapter, and we’ve only done the first chapter.

The plan is to bring-your-own-lunch, and show up in the fellowship hall thirty minutes after the sermon ends. We’ll meet weekly, except for the third Sunday of the month—which will be the Sunday for our Roosevelt University program. We’ll go till no later than 1:15 p.m. There are thirty-three chapters in the WCF, so we have a big journey.

It’s not too late to join in!


Jennifer Bell