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James Baldwin’s Talk To Teachers

Here’s a good link for this speech: https://www.zinnedproject.org/materials/baldwin-talk-to-teachers

Paragraph by paragraph, what do you think James Baldwin is saying in this speech he gave in October 1963 (about 5 weeks before the President of the US was assassinated)? After your interpretation of each paragraph (can be brief, no long quotes needed; I want your thoughts), what do you think is his overall point about race and education in the US?


  1. Ibraheem Zokari

    I think James Baldwin’s overall point about race and education in the U.S. is how much it affects a person’s identity and way of life. James explains that education helps and prepares people for the real world but the problem is the society and people in power in which people are being educated. Baldwin explains his problem with society and how much people limit themselves from the truth because of their fear of people with power or as Baldwin states, “a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society”. He believes that people are living in a lie that is implanted by society and in our education, one of them being America’s past. He believes that the government, society, and political power are built on benefiting themselves and he uses his experiences of racism and slavery to prove his point. Silent people, and living in a society where you’re a yes man to what’s wrong is what is damaging us and setting us back from change. James Baldwin is trying to say that it’s our responsibility to fight and come together to make change when needed. Similar to how Baldwin stated in his speech, many people would see something wrong that needs to be addressed but think that they can’t do anything about it. As a person of education and morals, it is your responsibility to fight for what’s right, no matter how hard it may seem. If we have this mindset that we can do anything about it, then we’re just making it easier for people to be controlled and lose their identity. It is up to the people to build a better society for the youth and people must come together to learn the truth and make change for what’s right. Baldwin realized how brainwashed society has become and how America’s history is built on lies on top of lies to keep the truth hidden. During the speech, he explains the topic of the “Negro Revolution”. In this situation, he explains how if you were to expose the truth about slavery then even the white people would learn about their history. It doesn’t only affect one group of people, but affects society as a whole which shows how much lies are hidden because no one is challenging society.

  2. Josue Giron

    I agree with Ibraheem; James Baldwin’s point about education and race is how much it can impact a person’s life. James gives the idea that the problem is our society and how people in power also impact everyone: it affects education. James explained how society limits themselves from the truth because of fear. “Now, the crucial paradox which confronts us here is that the whole process of education occurs within a social framework and is designed to perpetuate the aims of society” (James Baldwin.

    • Josue Giron


      James believes that education is taking an enormous toll on the past; the events that happened are not even taught as accurately as possible. He believes that schools are changing or not even teaching past events in America, events that have to do with race. James Baldwin made me think that people are not interested in talking and pointing it out; maybe they don’t care, or maybe people disagree but say yes because everyone else is saying that and feel like if they are opposed to this, they might not win the argument. There’s a large group of people doing this. People think they don’t have the responsibility to let their voices be heard to make a change that could help future generations. If we keep having a mindset like this, we will lose control of what we want and our opinions, and the people above us will completely control us. We must make our voices heard and open to everyone about what society is becoming and how the government wants total control of us. We need to learn and spread the truth for our eyes to be open. It affects not only one group of people but society as a whole, which shows how much lies are hidden because no one is challenging culture.

  3. Kawthar

    I think James Baldwin’s overall point about race and education in the US is how the youth is being taught and educated in an untruthful way and how all races are unable to express their rights. The way teachers teach the youth is not the full story of the past. Teachers are not going behind what’s told to teach the youth to change the future and not depend on the government or higher people. Schools forget that “ The purpose of education, finally is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white”. James pointed out that people fear or depend on the government to change the things they hate or dislike about our society. The people do not view themselves self as educators or as responsible for their own future. They think the government will make that change or we can’t change it because it’s the government but that’s wrong. The people are the ones who created the government. It has a responsibility to people in general. And the ones responsible are the people. To make a bright future for the youth teachers must do their jobs of teaching the truth and people should know their abilities to better the truth. We should know the truth and rights of our society to benefit future generations. James Baldwin wants teachers to teach youth to be educators and not just “obey the rules of society”.

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