From the poster for Barry Jenkins’s 2018 film adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk In November 1970, in the wake of the controversial arrest of the black activist and UCLA professor Angela Yvonne Davis, James Baldwin reflected on the acrid irony of seeing a dark-skinned woman harassed and manacled by white Americans. “One might have hoped that, by this hour, the very sight of chains on black flesh, or the very sight of chains, would be so intolerable a sight for the American people, and so unbearable a memory, that they would themselves spontaneously rise up and strike off the manacles,” he wrote in an open letter to Davis. “But no,” he lamented, “they appear to glory in their chains; now, more than ever, they appear to measure their safety in chains and corpses.” The incident began at California’s Soledad Prison, with a guard’s grisly murder of three black inmates. Davis rallied to the cause of the Soledad Brothers, as the executed prisoners became known. Their black bodies, it seemed, had been unceremoniously shipped off, like so many others, to some vast necropolis of America, a necropolis ironically the only city, by virtue of being a city of… Read full this story
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