The Black Feminist Roots of James Baldwin’s ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’

Philadelphia, PA

In his review of Barry Jenkins' new movie If Beale Street Could Talk, Elias Rodriques focuses on how Black Feminism was influencing James Baldwin's work in the early 1970's, when the source novel was written.

nikki-giovanni-portraitRodriques singles out Nikki Giovanni as one of those strong, influential women.

...His evolution was spurred, in part, by a public conversation he had in 1971, on the PBS show Soul! with the poet Nikki Giovanni. Early in the program, Baldwin noted that black men are treated like "a nigger" at work and in public, which causes them to mistreat their families. Giovanni responded forcefully to Baldwin's statement: Black women, she pointed out, certainly do know the effects that racism has on their partners, and thus they build romantic connections based on something greater and more personal than breadwinning alone. So the least these men can offer in return is good treatment.

Rodriques' review links to a video of that 1971 conversation - well worth a listen, especially the portion where Giovanni insists on a new paradigm for poor Black American families, arguing her point steadily, calmly, tenaciously. Baldwin resists for several mintues, then is drawn in by her argument and, in the end, agrees.

Full review here (The Nation)

1971 video here (bettter on mobile device or high speed connection)