James Baldwin’s Response


               In 1966 (July 11) The Nation published James Baldwin’s essay “A Report From the Occupied Territory.” Mr. Baldwin was one of the 20th century’s most finest and honest writers. His story begins with a 31-year-old salesman, named Frank Stafford, a father of two, who lived the neighborhood of Harlem. One day, he sees police officers with their guns beating a young black boy. When the salesman asks why they’re beating the boy, the police turn on him. They beat him, badly, and eventually arrest him. Once he arrived at the police station, he was beaten so viciously that he loses an eye. “As of my last information,” Baldwin writes, “the salesman is on the streets again, with his attache case, trying to feed his family. He is more visible now because he wears an eye patch; and because he questioned the right of two policemen to beat up one child, he is known as a ‘cop hater.'” So the fact that he had lost an eye made him even more of a target for white cops. He was seen as a “bad nigger,” which white cops hated the most. A common question some fieldworkers might ask is why white cops have so much anger towards black people, what event or experience triggers that effect?. Another wise question could be what steps American Blacks are taking to fight against these discriminations?. Questions like these can help the reader dissect the situation and comprehend them piece by piece, what event led to this one? and which one led to this one?.  A source of information that a fieldworker might use to dive deeper into the reading is by actually interviewing people that had actually lived in that time period. A primary source could make a major difference in understanding James Baldwin’s reading. A very clever strategy used by Mr. Baldwin was including himself in the story, “My report is also based on what I myself know, for I was born in Harlem and raised there. Neither I, nor my family, can be said ever really to have left; we are— perhaps—no longer as totally at the mercy of the cops and the landlords as once we were. In any case, our roots, our friends, our deepest associations are there, and ‘there’ is only about fifteen blocks away.” This technique is extremely effecting because it lets the reader know that the writer has a legit bond to this situation, it connects to him deeply. Overall, James Baldwin is an amazing writer, and would never be forgotten for the amount of work he did to help fight against discrimination.

2 thoughts on “James Baldwin’s Response

  • In your response, you constantly stated how the police conducting these discriminative actions towards the community members are black. As we learned in class, majority of the policemen resided in Harlem themselves—- meaning they were also people of color. How does this information change the focus of the questions you listed above?

  • It’s interesting how you would ask “what steps American Blacks are taking to fight against these discriminations?”; this is something I think many people would ask regarding this issue. I also thought similar questions while I read the article but I think we should also consider how the system as a whole prevents changes. Black Americans alone can not fight to stop social issues like this; people in this society (who are not Black) must also question their attitudes toward the issue and act together to speak against it to bring about real change. The burden alone can’t alone be on the oppressed.

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