Historiography: JAMES BALDWIN

THE WRITER ON CAMERA

James Baldwin (1924-1987) was a writer and intellectual whom one would not get to know adequately solely through his writing. He was and had a voice in an eminent sense. For him, the spoken word was a medium on a par with books. He embodied what he saw himself as being a “witness” to: the destiny of Black America. It is because of the strongly performative nature of his appearance that the many filmed documents that exist about him are so greatly significant. They show an evolution also in his thinking, in his fundamental critique of imperial America, which he saw as the central system of injustice of his epoch, and to which he repeatedly distanced himself, even spatially. In Europe he found a certain security, while he felt threatened in the country where three of his personal friends (Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King) had been assassinated. With every detail from the archives, James Baldwin takes on a clearer shape for a present for which he has increasingly become a guiding figure.

In the presence of Kathy Pakay.