Who’s Afraid of James Baldwin? (No Name In The Street)

James Baldwin

In No Name In The Streets Baldwin attempts to bear witness to the tumultuous and decadent era of the Civil Rights Movement. Baldwin discusses his whereabouts during the murders of 3 of the movement’s most influential titanic figures – Malcolm, Medgar, and Martin; he discusses his involvement; philosophizes the meaning of the movement -and its key players, what impact it had on all Americans – and ultimately how it changed his (already cynical, detached and disenchanted) attitude on the possibility of America ever achieving racial harmony.

Baldwin anchors his story (a historical glance at an era of systemic deep racism, hatred, and oppression) in the dubious innocence of an old Harlem buddy who has fled to Germany to escape a murder rap (which is essentially and interestingly a gay-hate crime that Baldwin – a known homosexual – leaves unchecked and unexplored). Eventually, the suspect is apprehended, extradited back to New York, and is convicted for the crime of which Baldwin is never really certain of his innocence. Or, for Baldwin, it doesn’t really matter as much as does the symbolism of the (possible) acquittal. Baldwin is much more concerned with the American judicial system (and its evil and wicked relation to the McCarthy phenomenon) and, more specifically, the infamously corrupt New York court system, under which his buddy is to be tried.

For Baldwin, who has come to know firsthand just how crooked the white American cop can be – when no one is looking – he seems more interested in getting his buddy off the hook just for the purpose of sticking it to the (il)legal system – one that has victimized, murdered and destroyed more black men than anything else – whether his buddy is innocent or not. So, for Baldwin, his buddy’s innocence is predicated on the thought that, guilty or not, he deserves to be set free because he will never get a fair trail in a system which is designed to disbelieve thus imprison him by virtue of his skin color. For Baldwin, his buddy becomes a symbol of protest and rebellion against the American legal system for its unending history of injustice to the black sojourn in America….click here to continue…