The Fire Next Time

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For the 1980s British band, see Fire Next Time (1980s band). For the television film, see The Fire Next Time (film).
The Fire Next Time
First edition cover
Author James Baldwin
Country United States
Language English
Genre Essays
Publisher Dial Press
Publication date
Pages 128

The Fire Next Time is a book by James Baldwin. It contains two essays: "My Dungeon Shook — Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation," and "Down At The Cross — Letter from a Region of My Mind." The first essay, written in the form of a letter to Baldwin's 14-year-old nephew, discusses the central role of race in American history. The second essay deals with the relations between race and religion, focusing in particular on Baldwin's experiences with the Christian church as a youth, as well as the Islamic ideas of others in Harlem.

The book was first published by The New Yorker and owing to its great success, it was subsequently published in book form by Dial Press in 1963, and in Britain by Penguin Books in 1964; both essays in the book had previously been published in The Progressive and The New Yorker, respectively. Critics greeted the book enthusiastically; it is considered, by some, one of the most influential books about race relations in the 1960s.[1] It was released in an audiobook format in 2008 and narrated by Jesse L. Martin.

The book's title comes from the Negro spiritual line, "God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water but fire next time".[2][3]


In his work “The Fire Next Time”, he illustrates that he lived in a highly stratified society where the white Americans and African Americans did not get along. In his article, he suggests that despite biblical statements from Christianity, there was no equality among black and white population in the United States. Harlem was also an area filled with poverty and danger, which Baldwin calls ghetto.[4]

Journals Written On The Novel[edit]

In the article by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, she focused on the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King. This article really builds on Baldwin’s work and gives audiences a better picture of what happened afterwards.In Baldwin’s piece, he noticed that there were racism in the United States, but he was mainly emphasizing the issue in his area of Harlem, New York. However through Hall’s Civil Rights Movement lens, audiences were able to see that the racial issue they confronted in America was not a sectional but rather national problem[5]

In the other article that expands on Baldwin’s new religious view was written by Jon Nilson, a theology professor. Nilson was writing about James Baldwin; however Nilson emphasized on a different religious view than Baldwin himself. In “The Fire Next Time”, Baldwin focused on how Christianity was corrupted and Nilson told how Baldwin challenged the Catholic Church. Nilson stated in his article that when Martin Luther King was assassinated in April 1968, it almost seemed like The Fire Next Time (1963) had come true.[6] The author was trying to make a statement demonstrating that he actually witnessed what Baldwin was trying to argue in his work. In Nilson’s article, it gives audience a better understanding of James Baldwin as an African American living under white supremacy in the United States.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ E. Washington, Robert. The Ideologies of African American Literature: From the Harlem Renaissance. 
  2. ^ Michael Bernick, "Race, Intermarriage and 'The Fire Next Time' in California", Fox & Hounds, 21 August 2012.
  3. ^ F.W. Dupee, "James Baldwin and the 'Man'", New York Review of Books, 1 June 1963
  4. ^ "The Fire Next Time". Polyaplang. Retrieved September 23, 2014. 
  5. ^ Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd. "The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past". Journal of American History 91 (4): 1234. 
  6. ^ Nilson, Jon (2013). "James Baldwin’s Challenge to Catholic Theologians and the Church". Theological Studies 74 (4): 886. 

External links[edit]