The Fire Next Time

The Fire Next Time (1963, Franklin Watts)

Library binding

English language

Published Oct. 5, 1963 by Franklin Watts.


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5 stars (4 reviews)

A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, "The Fire Next Time" galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin's early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document. It consists of two "letters," written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as "sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle...all presented in searing, brilliant prose," The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of our literature.

19 editions

The Fire Next Time

5 stars

1) "Dear James: I have begun this letter five times and torn it up five times. I keep seeing your face, which is also the face of your father and my brother. Like him, you are tough, dark, vulnerable, moody—with a very definite tendency to sound truculent because you want no one to think you are soft. You may be like your grandfather in this, I don't know, but certainly both you and your father resemble him very much physically. Well, he is dead, he never saw you, and he had a terrible life; he was defeated long before he died because, at the bottom of his heart, he really believed what white people said about him. This is one of the reasons that he became so holy."

2) "Just before and then during the Second World War, many of my friends fled into the service, all to be changed …

don't put it off

5 stars

Short enough I'm not sure it's worth summarizing - the opening 7 page letter to his nephew covers nearly all the ground the following essay bores into - but in short, integration won't truly happen until white people take the log out of their own eye about their shortcomings and intolerance, and black people are going to have to keep suffering for it - but there is no future path for America except integration and living together in love that goes well beyond what religion practices in America. Extremely relevant to this day.

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  • Discrimination & Racism
  • Children's 12-Up - Sociology