EP 309 Baldwin vs. Buckley: The Fire is Still Upon Us

On February 18, 1965 a packed hall at Cambridge Union in Cambridge, England came to see a historic, televised debate between James Baldwin, the leading literary voice of the civil rights movement, and William F. Buckley, Jr., a relentless critic of the movement and America’s most influential conservative intellectual.  The topic was ‘the American dream is at the expense of the American Negro’.  Nicholas Buccola’s book, ‘The Fire Is Upon Us’ is the first book that captures the emotion, dynamism and roots of the conversation that took place that night.  He also sheds light on how the debate that evening continues to reverberate in the politics of our time as we still struggle with America’s racial divide.  A recent survey found that 62 percent of Americans believe that ‘we haven’t arrived at racial equality’. This, of course, in the aftermath of what many thought in the wake of Barack Obama’s two term presidency was a post-racial America.  Donald Trump drove a wedge through that notion.  James Baldwin and William f. Buckley, Jr. were towering figures and this recounting reminds us that some issues are transcendant in our culture and politics and are destined to remain the unfinished work of every generation.