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American novelist and critic James Baldwin challenged the issue of race in America during and before the civil rights movement. His speeches, books, and articles have passed on to generations informing all who encounter his work.

Filmmakers and brothers Raoul and Hebert Peck created the documentary I Am Not Your Negro that looked at the life and career of James Baldwin and his fellow civil rights activist whom he watched die at the hands of the government.

“Well when the idea came about to do this film project actually Raoul had James Baldwin in his life as a child and he really helped him figure out who he was as a person,” explained Hebert. In finding himself through the works fo Baldwin, Raoul realized that, “The things that you experience the things that you’re thinking are really not crazy you realize that things aren’t right,” when it comes to racism in America.

Hebert explains how captivated his brother was by Baldwin’s works. “Raoul always had a Baldwin book with him, he read all his work,” he explained. “He would always hand out Baldwin books to young folks.”

But the road to making this documentary was not easy. “The first thing was to get the rights from the Baldwin Estate,” explained Hebert. “From that point on we knew we had a big task ahead because the Baldwin estate gave us access to published and unpublished work.”

The movie itself took 10 years to make because Raoul wanted to make sure he got the movie right. “He knew that to have to be able to tell the story he needed to have complete control of the story.” expressed Hebert.

Catch I Am Not Your Negro on PBS under the Independent Lens Series Monday, January 15, 2018.

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