What I’m now making my college students read about Ferguson

This is what American history looks like today.
This is what American history looks like today.
Image: Reuters/Jim Young
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Dear all,

As those of you who were in class on Tuesday know, I’ve decided to make one final slight change to the syllabus. In light of the response to the non-indictment of Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, I thought it would be a good time to revisit James Baldwin.

A lot of Baldwin’s writings from the sixties and seventies are still, sadly, relevant (and he’s been mentioned and quoted frequently in literary journalism about Ferguson so far), but this one, which was first published in The Progressive in December 1962 and reprinted in longer form in Baldwin’s 1963 book The Fire Next Time, is especially apt:

Please read this (it’s short) and we’ll discuss it on Tuesday.
I also wanted to send a few contemporary responses to the Ferguson situation which we can talk about in the context of both Baldwin’s essay and the reading we’ve been doing all semester. Here are three of the most interesting, provocative pieces I’ve seen, all published within the last week:

Those four essays (Baldwin, Cobb, Gay, and Bouie) are all required reading, and your Sunday response paper should be on one or more of those articles. But there’s been a lot of extraordinary and illuminating writing on Ferguson, and for those of you who are interested in reading more, here’s a list of recommended links.


Essays/personal reactions

Legal analyses of Wilson testimony and grand jury decision