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The NYPL Podcast

Podcast #180: Raoul Peck, "I Am Not Your Negro"

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I am not your negroLast June filmmaker Raoul Peck was at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture as part of its Artist and the Archive series. He had a two-part conversation, speaking with both Kevin Young, the Director of the Schomburg, and with Paul Holdengräber, the Director of LIVE from the NYPL.

Peck discussed I Am Not Your Negro, his groundbreaking documentary which envisions an unfinished book by James Baldwin that Peck came across while researching in Baldwin's archives. The book was to be called Remember This House and was intended as a personal account of the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr—all of whom were Baldwin’s friends. When James Baldwin died in 1987, he left behind only thirty completed pages of his manuscript. The film, voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, uses that unpublished work alongside other published writings and journeys through black history from the Civil Rights movement to Black Lives Matter. It was hailed as “life-altering” by the New York Times and was nominated for—and won—countless awards around the world.

A significant part of its greatness can be attributed to the unprecedented and unfettered access that Raoul Peck was granted to James Baldwin’s archives. Those archives, as of earlier this year, reside at the Schomburg Center. They comprise a massive collection of handwritten manuscripts, unpublished and published works in their nascent and final stages, screenplays with handwritten notes, interviews, telegrams, personal photographs, letters, and audio recordings.

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