The Fire Next Time

The Fire Next Time

by James Baldwin


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679744726
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/01/1993
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 9,929
Product dimensions: 5.26(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.46(d)
Lexile: 1300L (what's this?)

About the Author

JAMES BALDWIN (1924-1987) was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. His first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, appeared in 1953 to excellent reviews, and his essay collections Notes of a Native Son and The Fire Next Time were bestsellers that made him an influential figure in the growing civil rights movement. Baldwin spent much of his life in France, where he moved to escape the racism and homophobia of the United States. He died in France in 1987, a year after being made a Commander of the French Legion of Honor.

Date of Birth:

August 2, 1924

Date of Death:

December 1, 1987

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

St. Paul de Vence, France


DeWitt Clinton High School, New York City

Table of Contents

The Fire Next Time inspired me to become a better writer. The book takes on race, religion and sexuality in a way that is still relevant.

What People are Saying About This

Langston Hughes

"Baldwin uses words as if he uses waves, to flow and beat, advance and retreat, rise and take a bow and disappearing....a thought becomes poetry and the poetry illuminates the thought."

From the Publisher

"So eloquent in its passion and so scorching in its candor that it is bound to unsettle any reader."—The Atlantic

Customer Reviews

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The Fire Next Time 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Baldwin offers powerful insight into the two major movements of his time: Christian and Nation of Islam movements. He sorts out each of their respective problems. I liked the book because Baldwin took a creative approach to make an important point. The rhetorical delivery was excellent. Definitely a keeper.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book ¿The Fire Next Time¿ is an intensely personal book and an important historical document. The main conflict of this book is James Baldwin controversial view of the Black Muslim moment. Also the statement about the reality of being black in America. To defend oneself against a fear is simply to insure that one will, one day, be conquered by it: fears must be faced. All I really remember is the pain, the unspeakable pain, it was as though I was yelling up to heaven and heaven would not hear me. What I liked about the book ¿The Fire Next Time¿ was how black people in America have been through a lot of things and they keep living. What I didn¿t like about the book was how white people used foul language towards the blacks. I would recommend this book. I would recommend this book because it shows good information about the blacks in America. If you like books about the blacks go on with there life you should read this book.
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Written in 1962/1963, there are two parts to this slim book ¿ the first, ¿My Dungeon Shook¿, an open letter to Baldwin¿s nephew on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the second, ¿Down at the Cross¿, a description of Baldwin¿s coming to terms with religion starting from the age of 14, which is hard enough as it is, but more complicated in light of Baldwin¿s experiences growing up as an African-American in 1930¿s-1940¿s America.Not surprisingly, Baldwin is angry at the 400 years of injustice, of being discriminated against, devalued, and judged simply because of the color of his skin. Interestingly, he also points out disdain for elements of the liberal movement which ostensibly was allied to his interests, in particular, for liberals believing that blacks should be allowed to ¿rise up¿ to their level. Ha!, says Baldwin. (Of course in a more eloquent way :-)The book goes downhill a bit as Baldwin meets and embraces the ¿Honorable¿ Elijah Mohammed, and echoes beliefs such as ¿Allah allowed the Devil, through scientists, to carry out infernal experiments, which resulted, finally, in the creation of the devil known as the white man.¿, that they were decreed to rule the earth for a number of years that was about to expire, etc etc. I don¿t react to this because I¿m a white man, hell I understand that racism and cruelty over centuries led to this and that it was natural in the Civil Rights Movement to have a more violent ¿yang¿ force to Martin Luther King¿s non-violent ¿yin¿, I react because these beliefs are just wacky, and in my humble opinion did more harm than good. I would also say that about agreements Baldwin describes between Malcolm X and George Lincoln Rockwell, the leader of the American Nazi party, that the races would be better off separate.However, with that said, Baldwin is always smart and thought-provoking. This is a great snapshot of the early sixties and the fomenting Civil Rights movement, and there are occasional snippets that made me smile because they are so perfect for the time ¿ for example, Bobby Kennedy going out on a limb and predicting that a black man could be president in 40 years, which turned out to be remarkably accurate. (I believe it was 46 years instead of 40). Bottom line, Baldwin is a great writer and even if the book starts becoming a bit of a rant after the essential points have been made, he qualifies as someone worth reading through a rant.Quotes:From My Dungeon Shook:¿You can only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a nigger.¿¿The innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish. Let me spell out precisely what I mean by that, for the heart of the matter is here, and the root of my dispute with my country. You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits of your ambition were, thus, expected to be set forever. ¿The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear. ¿There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you.¿From Down at the Cross, following descriptions of harassment by the police and his thoughts as a boy, which I view as courageous:¿I was icily determined ¿ more determined, really, than I knew ¿ never to make peace with the ghetto but to die and go to Hell before I would let any white man spit on me, before I would accept my `place¿ in this republic.¿¿and the flip-side, the lack of courage:¿¿a civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.¿On the African-American experience:
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Baldwin's discussion of race in America is telling and evocative, worth reading even now. It is worth time not only because of his passionate voice and intelligent look at the world around him in civil rights-era America, but for the reflection it gives of the world we still live in. In showing readers his own prejudices, he does his best to break down their own, effectively illuminating pieces of history that might more easily be left to be forgotten or ignored, but which inevitably affect the identities we work every day to form and preserve. This book is both dated and contemporary in various ways, but it is without a doubt worth a contemporary reader's time. Highly recommended.
bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Baldwin¿s slim book about race problems in America provides a powerful picture of the tumultuous time period he was living in. It begins with a line from an old slave song, ¿God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water, the fire next time.¿ He goes on to talk about how black and white people in America are picking each other apart and destroying themselves in the process.Baldwin wrote this in 1963, while the nation was embroiled in the Civil Rights movement. His thoughts on the matter are both universal and deeply personal. He manages capture the feelings of many African Americans at that time, frustration and anger at a world filled with injustice, and blend them with his own cry for a peaceful persistence as they fight for equality. He wrote much of this book to encourage his nephew and convince him that he shouldn¿t see himself as unworthy because white people may treat him that way. This is my first taste of Baldwin and while I was impressed by his writing style, I¿ve heard his fiction is even better. ¿It demands great spiritual resilience not to hate the hater whose foot is on your neck and an even greater miracle of perception and charity not to teach your child to hate.¿
Tracey_L More than 1 year ago
This was a stunning read that pulled no punches. As apt today as it was when it was written, it is truly a must read for everyone. I found that rather than reading through it quickly I had to take a few pages at a time so that I could really ponder and digest his words. Amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. an eye opening on race in America. I would suggest to anyone but especially African Americans
KarenEvans More than 1 year ago
This is a book to read with a pen! My copy, brand new, and fresh from the mailbox now has underlining everywhere and notes filling the margins. The language is beautiful in this book and there is a lot of wisdom to gather. This is my first James Baldwin and I crave more! The book consists of two letters, a short one written to a nephew and a longer one written to discuss his thoughts and feelings about race, religion, and life. This is the most beautiful description in the entire book. I cannot possibly think of a more exquisite way to word how James sees his brother and how we often see those we have watched grow up. "Other people cannot see what I see whenever I look into your father’s face for behind your father’s face as it is today are all those other faces which were his. Let him laugh and I see a cellar your father does not remember and a house he does not remember and I hear in his present laughter his laughter as a child." Baldwin starts his letter by informing his nephew on how black people can be destroyed if they believe what some white people think about them. He discusses a hidden message telling black people to settle for mediocrity rather than striving for excellence. Baldwin believes that black people need to know their history and where they came from so that there will be “no limit to where you can go.” "…We, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it."
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Every word, and every page of this book drives a new belief about the turth of racism and how it applies to both white and blacks. It's more of a paradox.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Fire Next Time is composed of two essays written by Baldwin. Each essay stresses that love is the only power strong enough to unite blacks and whites. The first essay is written to his nephew whose name happens to be James and the second essay appears to be something that Baldwin may have written in order to free his mind of Christian and racial burdens. In the second essay, Baldwin analyzes the effects of religious practices on seperating the races. This book is a must read. Each page will lead you into a deeper realm of 'self.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
James Baldwin wrote The Fire Next Time as an intensely personal experience of a specific period in American history. However, the clarity of thought and language translates to any age and any race. The Fire Next Time is an American classic on the order of Self-Reliance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Super lame
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book showed very important views of racism but it was extremely boring it had no story line it was like he was just talkin and talkin.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book when i was like, 14 or 15,so I really didn't get much of what he was saying.I'm sure what he implied about bringing an end to racism will someday happen.