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The Fire Is upon Us

James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America

Nicholas Buccola



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Princeton University Press
01 October 2019
A great read. -Whoopi Goldberg, The View

How the clash between the civil rights firebrand and the father of modern conservatism continues to illuminate America's racial divide

On February 18, 1965, an overflowing crowd packed the Cambridge Union in Cambridge, England, to witness a historic televised debate between James Baldwin, the leading
Imprint:   Princeton University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 155mm, 
ISBN:   9780691181547
ISBN 10:   0691181543
Pages:   496
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  Professional and scholarly ,  General/trade ,  ELT Advanced ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Nicholas Buccola is the author of The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass and the editor of The Essential Douglass and Abraham Lincoln and Liberal Democracy. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, and many other publications. He is the Elizabeth and Morris Glicksman Chair in Political Science at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, and lives in Portland.

Reviews for The Fire Is upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America

A thoughtful and generous guide . . . the contemporary reader is likely to experience surprise at some of Buckley's opinions, and to delight at reminders of Baldwin in his heyday. ---James Campbell, Wall Street Journal The Fire Is Upon Us . . . sets the context for the epic confrontation, illuminating two vastly different visions of race relations in the United States that, to a great extent, remain relevant today . . . Buccola concludes, provocatively, that although Buckley lost the debate at Cambridge, he used racial resentment to help conservatives capture the Republican party, take control of southern politics, and win the presidency in seven of the last ten elections. The price of victory, he adds, 'has been incredibly high'. ---Dr. Glenn Altschuler, Florida Courier One of Whoopi Goldberg's Favorite Things, ABC The View A gripping snapshot of a country riven by injustice yet anxious about radical change. * New York Times Book Review * A great read. ---Whoopi Goldberg, The View One of Inside Higher Ed's Books to Give the Educator in Your Life for the Holidays One of LitHub's 50 Favorite Books of the Year The Fire Is Upon Us makes a compelling case for why Baldwin and Buckley were who they were and, in doing so, serves as a good starting point for understanding the nature of the present partisan divide. ---Aaron Robertson, LitHub Both a dual biography of Buckley and Baldwin and an acute commentary on a great intellectual prizefight. . . . [Nicholas Buccola] deftly guides the reader through the rhetorical and philosophical moves of Baldwin's speech. . . . The Fire Is Upon Us becomes revelatory in its interpretation of Buckley's performance. . . . It is tempting to view the Baldwin-Buckley debate as a small victory for the idea of racial equality: Baldwin carried the floor vote 544 to 164. But part of the wisdom of The Fire Is Upon Us is that it leaves the import of the evening open to question. ---Thomas Meaney, New York Times Book Review A study of two acclaimed American thinkers on opposite sides of the political spectrum that underscores the enormous race and class divisions in 1960s America, many of which still exist today. . . . An elucidating work that makes effective use of comparison and contrast. * Kirkus Reviews * Nicholas Buccola's captivating new book, The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr. and the Debate over Race in America, not only masterfully re-creates the debate in dramatic detail, but provides critical context, illuminating the road that each man traveled to Cambridge, and the groundbreaking work that established Baldwin and Buckley as iconic figures on opposite sides of the battle over racial justice and white supremacy that divided the country then as today. ---Steve Nathans-Kelly, New York Journal of Books One of The Undefeated's 25 Can't Miss Books of 2019 Scintillating. ---Robert Tsai, Boston Review One of The Progressive's Favorite Books of 2019 Chicago Tribune writer John Warner's Book That Will Help You Better Understand the Messed-Up Nature of the World New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice This is a book I highly recommend all Americans read. ---Christian Starr, Nicholas Buccola's The Fire Is upon Us is a riveting, expansive companion text to a historic debate that swept the nation. . . . Following the men's journeys with meticulous detail, Buccola's biographical/historical/political hybrid proffers valuable insights for the current day. * Foreword Reviews * The Fire Is Upon Us is written for readers on both the left and the right, its prose wonderfully accessible . . . [and it] holds a mirror up to the strident political and racial divisions of the U.S. in 2019. The language may be a little different today from what Baldwin and Buckley used, but the sharp terms of the debate over whether people of color in the United States get to have the American dream remains the same then as now. ---Gabrielle Bellot, The Atlantic You can watch James Baldwin's historic 1965 debate at the Cambridge Union with William F. Buckley Jr. on YouTube. ... Buccola's book reveals the story behind it. The two men were born just 15 months apart, yet grew up in separate Americas. Buccola provides an exegesis of the lives of both men, and an evaluation of a century-defining debate. The fault lines between Buckley and Baldwin are just as relevant as ever. ---Soraya Nadia McDonald, The Undefeated

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