Today’s James Baldwin’s feature is The Fire Next Time.”
The Fire Next Time is a 1963 book by James Baldwin. It contains two essays: “My Dungeon Shook — Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation,” and “Down At The Cross — Letter from a Region of My Mind.” The first essay, written in the form of a letter to Baldwin’s 14-year-old nephew, discusses the central role of race in American history. The second essay deals with the relations between race and religion, focusing in particular on Baldwin’s experiences with the Christian church as a youth, as well as the Islamic ideas of others in Harlem.
The book was first published by The New Yorker and owing to its great success, it was subsequently published in book form by Dial Press in 1963, and in Britain by Penguin Books in 1964; both essays in the book had previously been published in The Progressive and The New Yorker, respectively. Critics greeted the book enthusiastically; it is considered, by some, one of the most influential books about race relations in the 1960s. It was released in an audiobook format in 2008 and narrated by Jesse L. Martin.
The book’s title comes from the couplet “God gave Noah the rainbow sign / No more water but fire next time” in Mary Don’t You Weep, a Negro spiritual.
James Baldwin Speaks! The Fire This Time: A Message to Black Youth