I Am Not Your Negro

Mar 3, 2017

A first-rate documentary about race relations from a writer who should know.

I Am Not Your Negro

Grade: A

Director: Raoul Peck (Lumumba)

Screenplay: James Baldwin

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 1 hr 33 min

by John DeSando

“I’m not a nigger. I am a man.” James Baldwin

I Am Not Your Negro is essential documentary, honest to the core about race relations in the last century from the mouth of one of its greatest writers, black or white, James Baldwin.  Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this view of mid-century racism is authentically rendered as a metaphor for the unease of our society, more apparent now in our politics of fear and exclusion than ever.

The above quote best crystallizes the PV of a brilliant writer who sees the hidden prejudices of humanity distracted as racism. Indeed, our last election showed racist xenophobia only now taking form in relatively-indiscriminate immigration policies. Although race relations are far better now than in the ‘60’s, it takes only a brilliant doc like O. J.: Made in America to remind us of its omnipresence.

More than castigating whites for unconscionable hatred, Baldwin questions why they needed “nigger” and what that slur suggested. He suggests a deeper malady of misanthropy and fear to be expunged by facing it head on.

I Am Not Your Negro is a powerful documentary; Baldwin is unforgettably charismatic and enlightening:

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” James Baldwin

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at