On Wednesday 18 October Merton College co-hosted the screening of a powerful Academy Award-nominated documentary film, I Am Not Your Negro, about the life of American writer and activist James Baldwin.
Director Raoul Peck's film, narrated by Samuel L Jackson, is based on Baldwin's unfinished manuscript Remember This House, his reminiscences of the black civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. It presents a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America and beyond, using Baldwin’s original words alongside a wealth of rich archival material.
The film was followed by a panel discussion with the artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien, and the writer Caryl Phillips, moderated by Professor Alison Donnell of the University of East Anglia. Taking the film and Baldwin’s work as a starting point, the speakers discussed their own work and the life of an intellectual dissident in relation to art, politics and activism.
Questions and contributions from the audience touched on issues that included the role of women in the civil rights movement, Baldwin's sexuality, inclusivity and representation of minority ethnic communities in UK institutions, Baldwin as a diasporic voice, and the influence of Henry James on his work.
The screening and discussion were organised and hosted in collaboration with the Stuart Hall Foundation, the University of Oxford, and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).
Watch the post-screening discussion
Sue Woodford-Hollick OBE (Lady Hollick), Chair of the Stuart Hall Foundation, introduced the panellists
Caryl Phillips, Professor Alison Donnell, and Isaac Julien
Isaac Julien responding to a question from the audience
The audience and panel in the TS Eliot Theatre