Teen Review: I Am Not Your Negro
Review by Fathima, member of the Cedarbrae Youth Advisory Group
I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary film based on the unfinished manuscript of the well-known American novelist and social critic, James Baldwin. This documentary is a journey into black history and connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present growing movement of #BlackLivesMatter.
Although Baldwin spent a great deal of his life abroad, he always remained an American writer. Whether he was working in Paris or Istanbul, he never stopped from reflecting on his experience as a black man in white America. The voice of James Baldwin reflects the pain and struggle of black Americans. This movie questions black representation in Hollywood and several such imbalances in our society. It also takes a radical look at race and racial issues in America, using Baldwin's original words and also a lot of archival material. Baldwin also provides a personal account of the lives of three of his friends – Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., all of whom were tragically assassinated.
This film is narrated by famous actor, Samuel L. Jackson. Incidentally, Jackson was active in the black student movement. In the seventies, he joined the Negro Ensemble Company (together with Morgan Freeman). In the eighties, he became well-known after appearing in three movies made by Spike Lee.
I had checked out the book from the library but then I wanted to watch the movie for Black History Month. There were several holds on the DVD. Not knowing which websites to watch this wonderful movie on, I went to Kanopy, the library’s very own database for classic films, world cinema, documentaries and popular movies available for on-demand streaming. Fortunately, I was not disappointed. Check out other classic movies and documentaries for free at Kanopy.
This is a serious thought-provoking documentary but good to watch for those trying to understand the issues behind race and race relations and I recommend this to all teens.