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The Interviewer Asks Him About Despair. His Smile Says Even More Than His Words.

Wow, these are good words to hear at the end of a rough year in the world.

The Interviewer Asks Him About Despair. His Smile Says Even More Than His Words.

This is James Baldwin.

To introduce him as a writer — or even a great writer — might be selling him a bit short.


He was born in the 1920s and grew up in Harlem. Because he was black and gay, he found living in the U.S. pretty damn hard. He lived much of his adult life in France.

You may know or have read some of his books, which include such wildly famous titles as "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and "Notes of a Native Son."

He wrote about the big issues.

And he was involved in the civil rights movement.

I'm guessing all this dealing with the challenges and struggles of America from the 1930s through the 1960s was pretty tough work, and a lot of people would be overwhelmed or numbed by the sheer difficulty of all that was facing black Americans, gay Americans, and all Americans.

But not Baldwin.


That message is incredible. Especially at a time when it feels like the movement for true civil rights and equality is so far from over.

That smile tells me that his answer has a flavor of bitter irony to it. But he is sincere, too. He puts it plain and simple.

This montage is less a minute long. Watch, and learn from a master.

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Photo courtesy of Capital One
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Girls For a Change is one of many local nonprofits that receive support from the Capital One Impact Initiative, which strives to close gaps in equity while helping people gain better access to economic and social opportunities. The initial $200 million, five-year national commitment aims to support growth in underserved communities as well as advance socioeconomic mobility.

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