The Fire Next Time
A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963,The Fire Next Timegalvanized 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.
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This quotation is an excerpt from the "slave song" or "Negro spiritual" "Mary Don't You Weep." The song is meant to be inspirational and reassuring. The quote refers to Noah and his ark. After the waters resided from the great flood, God gave Noah the sign that next time he would destroy the earth through fire not water. The figurative meaning of the quote is important as well. God entrusted Noah to preserve the human race, but he did not purify humanity. If humanity does not learn from its mistakes, then God warns that his wrath will be swift and the next time inescapable. Consider this warning as you read the text. Below is a rendition of the song by Yolanda Adams. (This annotation contains a video)
My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation
The text is comprised of two pieces. The first is "Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation." The second is an essay "Down at the Cross: A Letter from a Region of My Mind." As you read try to make a connection between the two pieces. Keep in mind that the text was published in 1963 during the height of the American Civil Rights Movement. The author returned to the United States from France to take part in the movement. As you examine his advice, try to identify the central claim and other elements of the argument using the Toulmin Model of Argument. Click on the link below for more information about this model. (This annotation contains a video)
The central claim of the author's letter to his nephew is that his nephew does not have to accept the position assigned to him by United States history and the white Americans. As you read, consider how he supports this argument using personal anecdotes, historical references, and logic. The highlighted excerpt is an example of historical evidence. Click on the link below to read more about the dichotomies between the upper class and slums of London during the nineteenth century. (This annotation contains a link)
The author contends that his nephew and many others have exceeded the expectations of the white man. What does he argue is the next step his generation must take in order to free themselves from the limitations of the white man's expectations?
Down At The Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind
This excerpt is from the Rudyard Kipling poem "The White Man's Burden." Written in 1899, Kipling urged the United States to take up the "burden" of imperialism and expand its civilization around the globe. The phrase "White Man's Burden" has since become synonymous with imperialism and racism.
What does the author suggest when he states that the young girls in his neighborhood were becoming "matrons before they had become women"?
A secondary claim the author makes is the environment African Americans are prescribed to reside (i.e.: Harlem) aides in their perception as inferior. African Americans must cease believing the white version of the "American Dream," face their reality, and effect change.
The highlighted passage is an example of which element of argument?
The author contends that elements of his life converged to support the notion that African Americans are inherently inferior to white Americans simply because of their race. He uses the example of Christianity as grounds to support his claim.
According to the author, why did he wish to be "saved" and become a more active part of the church?
The author's time as a youth minister is an interesting experience because it gave him independence and freedom from his father's authority. However, his experiences were not all positive. He believed this was the "most dishonest" time in his life.
The allusion to Ham is from the Bible. According to the Bible, Ham is the son of Noah, and while Noah is drunk and asleep Ham "sees his father naked." Some interpretations of this imply that Ham violated his father either sexually or castrated him. As a result, Noah cursed the sons of Ham. Nowhere in the Bible does it actually refer to the sons of Ham as African American, but this passage has been wrongly used to justify slavery and racism.
The author believes that the church and the criminals in the ghettos were equivalents because
Which of the following answers is an example of the grounds the author uses to illustrate the highlighted claim?
Click on the link below to listen to the song, "I Feel So Good" by Big Bill Broonzy. (This annotation contains a video)
Elijah Muhammad was the leader of the Nation of Islam from 1934 until his death in 1975. For more biographical information about Muhammad, please click on the link below. (This annotation contains a link)
Read the highlighted passage including the phrase in parentheses. What is the author's tone, and what does it suggest about the author's feelings about the United States government? Use textual and historical information to support your response.
In the Toulmin Model, the warrant is the inferential leap that the audience makes between the grounds and the claim. In this case, the warrant you can make based on the highlighted passage is that the author believes that the African American race could face a genocide as the Jews of Germany suffered.
The author's experience in the bar and his subsequent conversation with a Korean War veteran is an example of which element of argument?
The author believes that the Nation of Islam was the only grassroots movement that "articulates" the African American suffering. But he also contends that it is more "sinister" because of the movement's effectiveness. He argues the problem is not with the Nation of Islam movement, but "the conditions which breed the Muslim movement." (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the narrator's account, how does he feel sitting and waiting for Elijah to enter the room?
During dinner the narrator listens to the other guests laud and agree with Elijah. This "set[s] [his] teeth on edge." This implies the narrator does not appreciate the guests' blind devotion to Elijah. It is evident from the author's claim that he wants African Americans to consider who they are and dictate their own standards for living.
The narrator admits to have a preconceived notion about how doormen and policemen will treat him, and that his idea may be wrong. By doing this, which rebuttal does the author address?
Why does the narrator feel as if he is "back in [his] father's house"? Consider how he felt while living under his father's roof.
According to the narrator, why are young African American men attracted to the Muslim movement?
The highlighted excerpt illustrates the author's claim. He believes that African Americans and white Americans can live together if they cease elevating themselves by oppressing the other. In this case he argues that a white man can be masculine without having to emasculate an African American man.
What point is the author trying to prove by asking the boy driver questions about how the Muslim movement will change the dynamic between African Americans and white Americans?
The author plays on the adage "where there's smoke there's fire" to imply that the rumors he heard about the Nation of Islam's funding are true.
The author provides the grounds about the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. the Board of Education in order to support which claim?
The author's feelings about the ability for people to "be better than they are" and that "America is the only Western nation with both the power and... the experience" to make a revolution occur is a reference to the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
What does the author suggest when he asks the rhetorical question, "Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?"
The author reiterates his claim in various terms. For example, he states that the "only thing white people have that black people ... want is power - and no one holds power forever." He does not believe that African Americans need to be like white Americans to integrate. White Americans and African Americans need to accept a new set of standards that does not subjugate one to another.
The author has great respect for individuals who hew "out of the mountain of white supremacy the stone of their individuality." Based on this idea, which group or individual would the author LEAST likely support?
Do you agree with the highlighted statement? Consider the current international situation and warfare that is occurring around the world. Do you think that disenfranchised people are more apt to join organizations such as ISIS because of their desire to find equality or authority?
After reading the text, does the quotation from the Bible have a different or enhanced meaning? Use textual evidence to support your response.