About the Book
This work of non-fiction is comprised of two appositional essays, whereby the literary gifts and moral compass of James Baldwin are woven deftly into a singular strand of reckoning. The first and shorter essay, "My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation," is an epistle, ostensibly to a fourteen-year-old boy, delineating the central role of race in American history. The second and longer essay—"Down at Cross: Letter from a Region of My Mind"—is a study on the intersection of religion and race that draws heavily from Baldwin's own experiences with Christianity alongside the Islamic ideas of fellow Harlemites. Published separately (in the The New Yorker and The Progressive, respectively) and then together in 1963, these two essays have been cited as seminal texts of the civil rights movement.
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