A plea to end the country’s “racial nightmare” and the classic essay of the civil rights movement. The book takes the form of two letters addressed to Baldwin’s 14-year-old nephew, in which the writer describes the role of racism in American history. The title is drawn from a line in an old African-American spiritual, entitled “Mary Don’t You Weep”: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign; no more water, fire next time.”
ames Baldwin's impassioned plea to 'end the racial nightmare' in America was a bestseller and became essential reading during the emerging civil rights movement. In the book, Baldwin explores his early life in Harlem and condemns the terrible legacy of racial injustice. All these years later, it’s clear there is still an abundance of work to be done in the fight for equality, and so the book is as important as ever for white allies to read and learn from.
First published in 1963, Baldwin’s book was a bestseller in its day and is just as necessary now – alas. Taking the form of two essays, one a letter to his then 14-year-old nephew, Baldwin’s voice is as powerful and influential as it ever was in looking at systemic racism in the United States.
While it captures Baldwin’s entirely justified anger at the state of the nation in the 1960s, it’s also, in many ways, a hopeful and galvanising read. “If we – and I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of others – do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world.”