History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations. And it is with great pain and terror that one begins to realize this. In great pain and terror one begins to assess the history which has placed one where one is, and formed one’s point of view. In great pain and terror because, thereafter, one enters into battle with that historical creation, Oneself, and attempts to re-create oneself according to a principle more humane and more liberating: one begins the attempt to achieve a level of personal maturity and freedom which robs history of its tyrannical power, and also changes history.
James Baldwin, “The White Man’s Guilt,” Ebony, August 1965, 47-48. (via Google Books)

Framing Wright’s Native Son

Framing Wright’s Native Son

Native Son Insert (Overlay)

Native Son Insert (Overlay)

Sometime last fall, I found a first edition copy of Richard Wright’s Native Son in the basement of Amherst Books, sitting inconspicuously among the other titles on the “New Arrivals – Used Fiction” shelf. This is the first entry in a series about my encounter with the novel, focusing on the impossibility of justice for non-whites under a white supremacist jurisprudence. In this introductory…

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8-15 / Hamden, CT / The Space

8-16 / Pawtucket, RI / The Met

8-19 / Portland, ME / Port City Music Hall

8-20 / Portsmouth, NH / The Press Room

8-21 / Burlington, VT / Higher Ground Showcase Lounge

8-22 / Albany, NY / The Low Beat

8-23 / Easthampton, MA / Flywheel Arts Collective

8-26 / Cambridge, MA / Middle East Upstairs


"Dallas County, population 2.5 million, now officially stands for "monetary and substantial reparations" for black Americans’ suffering, after the County Commission summarily approved a resolution by its only black member that the white commissioners never bothered to read."


The belief that the Civil War wasn’t for us was the result of the country’s long search for a narrative that could reconcile white people with each other, one that avoided what professional historians now know to be true: that one group of Americans attempted to raise a country wholly premised on property in Negroes, and that another group of Americans, including many Negroes, stopped them. In the popular mind, that demonstrable truth has been evaded in favor of a more comforting story of tragedy, failed compromise, and individual gallantry. For that more ennobling narrative, as for so much of American history, the fact of black people is a problem.



Reproduction implies the existence of discontinuous beings. Beings which reproduce themselves are distinct from one another, and those reproduced are likewise distinct from each other, just as they are distinct from their parents. Each being is distinct from all others. His birth, his death, the events of his life may have an interest for others, but he alone is directly concerned in them. He is born alone. He dies alone. Between one being and another, there is a gulf, a discontinuity.

This gulf exists, for instance, between you, listening to me, and me, speaking to you. We are attempting to communicate, but no communication between us can abolish our fundamental difference. If you die, it is not my death. You and I are discontinuous beings.

But I cannot refer to this gulf which separates us without feeling that this is not the whole truth of the matter. It is a deep gulf, and I do not see how it can be done away with. None the less, we can experience its dizziness together. It can hypnotize us. This gulf is death in one sense, and death is vertiginous, death is hypnotizing.

Georges Bataille, Erotism: Death and Sensuality (via heteroglossia)