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Film Review: I Am Not Your Negro
by Rose Finlay

Raoul Peck, USA

In 1979, civil rights activist James Baldwin pitched his upcoming project to his literary agent. It was to be a book titled Remember This House and would tell a personal account of the lives and assassinations of his friend Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers. When Baldwin passed away in 1987, only thirty pages had been written. I Am Not Your Negro is director Raoul Peck’s take on what the novel could have been, utilizing Baldwin’s writings and archival interviews to complete the work.

An intelligent and thought-provoking documentary, I Am Not Your Negro doesn’t pull any punches. James Baldwin was a man with eloquent insight into the plight of African-Americans in the 1960s, and it soon becomes clear that his fascinating analyses are not so much a conversation about the past, but, tragically, also about our present. As the film goes on, it becomes disturbingly clear just how little progress has been made in the thirty years since Baldwin’s death.

Expertly edited by Alexandra Strauss with a powerful narration by Samuel L. Jackson, I Am Not Your Negro is a well-made and poignant work. While it may not be the most accessible to those without prior knowledge of the civil rights movement or mid-20th century history, it is an excellent addition to the social and racial education of those with the motivation to learn more about America’s tumultuous past and present.