Get the key ideas from

Begin Again

James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own

By Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
13-minute read
Audio available
Begin Again by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.

Begin Again (2020) looks back at the incomparable work of the writer James Baldwin, who spent decades dissecting America’s fundamental racism problem. His ideas may provide insights for us today, so Begin Again seeks to answer the question: What advice would Baldwin have on issues like Trumpism or Black Lives Matter?

  • Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement
  • People longing for a less hypocritical America
  • Anyone seeking an end to Trumpism

Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. is an award-winning scholar and writer who holds a PhD in religion from Princeton University as well as a master's degree in African American studies from Temple University. His previous books include Exodus!: Religion, Race, and Nation in Early Nineteenth-Century Black America (2000) and Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul (2016). 

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
4,000+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

Begin Again

James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own

By Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Begin Again by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
Synopsis

Begin Again (2020) looks back at the incomparable work of the writer James Baldwin, who spent decades dissecting America’s fundamental racism problem. His ideas may provide insights for us today, so Begin Again seeks to answer the question: What advice would Baldwin have on issues like Trumpism or Black Lives Matter?

Key idea 1 of 8

James Baldwin was committed to addressing a corrosive American lie.

There are those who refuse to see America as anything less than great. They’ll tell you that the founding principles of democracy and equality are alive and well. They’ll say that the country’s history of racism is a thing of the past and that everyone has an equal chance to live the American dream. 

But this is all part of the lie that has been at the heart of America since the beginning. The lie is a set of false ideas that serve to prop up the idea of white supremacy and suggest that Black Americans are somehow less intelligent, less ambitious, less beautiful, or less important. The lie puts forth the toxic notion that white lives matter more than others. The author refers to the central idea of the lie, of white lives being more valuable, as the value gap.

The key message here is: James Baldwin was committed to addressing a corrosive American lie.

The lie, and the value gap, have been tearing the US apart for generations. In that time, the nation has had multiple opportunities to acknowledge the problem, but so far, it has stubbornly refused to do so. Instead, the value gap has become so pervasive, so deeply ingrained into America’s narrative, that it can seep into a person on a subconscious level. The toxic effect that the lie has on Black Americans can lead to trauma and self-hatred, something about which the writer James Baldwin was deeply aware.

Baldwin’s stepfather was affected by the lie. He was filled with hate. He hated white people, yet he also went to the grave believing the lies white people said about him. In his 1955 essay, “Me and My House,” Baldwin recounts what it was like growing up with an abusive stepfather, and how the hate that filled his stepfather threatened to overpower him.

Eventually, Baldwin understood the futility of that hate. He recognized that people like his stepfather were imprisoned by it. The way out of this prison, Baldwin believed, was love. By recognizing that we’re all human beings with the same desires, we can love one another and end the lie before it makes things even worse.

As we’ll see in the blinks ahead, Baldwin would return to the idea that love is the answer. It would sometimes put him at odds with those in other Black power movements, but for Baldwin, love was one of the most powerful tools for dismantling the lie.

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.