Witnessing History in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter Movement – Rauol Peck’s Exploration of James Baldwin in Doc “I Am Not Your Negro”

Laurean D. Robinson, MA

Can an incomplete novel from the 1960’s be relevant in 2017?

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In the artful hands of Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck, this dormant piece breathes new life as a multi-layered tapestry of cultural significance in the #BlackLivesMatter era, combining the words of James Baldwin’s manuscript with archival footage.

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Initially, his novel was meant to be a testimonial of the lives of slain civil rights icons Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But it’s in his prophetic narration of race relations (delivered eloquently by Samuel L. Jackson) from the 1960’s paired with contemporary footage of protests in Ferguson that creates a cohesive bridge from the past to the present.

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You realize that Black history is not in the past but happening right now.

Through the media examination of race in America, Peck goes beyond Baldwin’s posthumous piece Remember This House to explore black representation in Hollywood and beyond.

You then realize that how we see race in America hasn’t really changed that much over the last 40-50 years.

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But that realization doesn’t discourage you as much as you thought it would. It acts as a rallying cry to take up the baton and continue the work previous generations have started in the movement.

This documentary is more than necessary today; it is required for any person who wants to understand how race has shaped this country.