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"The story of the Negro in America is the story of America, and it is not a pretty story."
James Baldwin
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I Am Not Your Negro is a 2016 documentary film by Raoul Peck.

It is based on the writings of author and civil rights activist James Baldwin (1924-1987), one of the most acclaimed black writers of his generation. Baldwin left behind at his death an unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, a memoir of his recollections of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers. The manuscript was used by Raoul Peck as the foundation for a documentary film about the black experience in America. Although Baldwin's voice is heard throughout either through stock footage clips or readings from the manuscript, the documentary is not strictly about him (his homosexuality is only mentioned in an excerpt from an FBI file) so much as it is about America as seen through Baldwin's eyes.

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Samuel L. Jackson provides the voice of Baldwin, reading portions from the Remember This House manuscript. No Talking Heads are used, with the only voice being that of Baldwin, either from Jackson's narration or from stock footage.


Tropes:

  • Book Burning: A stock clip of a Nazi book-burning rally as Baldwin remembers his youth.
  • Call-Forward: Baldwin is scornful of Robert Kennedy's assertion that a black man might be president in 40 years, saying that black people have been in America for 400 years. This bit is then followed with a brief stock clip of Barack Obama.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: One sequence includes several clips of Baldwin giving a fiery speech at a public debate forum. It's presented in black and white, until the end, when the color fades in and it's revealed to be an early color television broadcast. (This is not done with other color footage of Baldwin, like his appearance on Dick Cavett's talk show.)
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  • Eagleland: A deeply pessimistic view in which Baldwin basically says the American dream is a lie and there is no hope unless white people can face up to why they are prejudiced. (Baldwin emigrated from the United States as a young man and spent the rest of his life in France.)
  • Gilligan Cut: Baldwin, in a 1968 Stock Footage interview, tries to broaden the focus of the discussion beyond black people, saying "The real question is what is going to happen to this country." Cue a cut to the Ferguson, Missouri protests and police attacks of 2014, following the shooting death of Michael Brown.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: A whole bunch. One sequence includes a clip from an over-the-top 1960 American government propaganda film called The Land We Love, in which a narrator waxes rhapsodic about how America is the land of freedom and opportunity, as footage of baseball games and white people picnicking plays. The patriotic narration continues as the scene changes from the propaganda film to footage of the 1965 Watts riots.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: Used heavily, with just about every still picture in the movie. When the discussion shifts to Malcolm X there's a Ken Burns pan from the feet to the head of a picture of Malcolm, then a Ken Burns zoom onto Malcolm's face in a different picture.
  • Rule of Three: Baldwin talks about three martyrs: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Shout-Out: Many, as Baldwin speaks quite a bit about American pop culture and how it reflects white America's view of black people. In one sequence, he (actually, Samuel L. Jackson reading his words) talks about Sidney Poitier and his role in reassuring white folks in films like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and The Defiant Ones—Poitier's character as the sexless man who doesn't actually kiss the girl in the former, and as the savior who leaps from the train to save Tony Curtis in the latter.
  • Stock Footage: Most of the movie is stock footage, either of various Baldwin interviews or other historical footage, or carefully chosen film clips.
  • Title Drop: Sort of. The title comes from the last clip in the movie, as Baldwin says he refuses to be what the white man wants him to be. But he doesn't say "Negro", he says the six-letter-N-word.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: Discussed Trope, as the film examines racist portrayals of black people in American pop culture and advertising. Baldwin specifically mentions Stepin Fetchit and Willie Best, two of the most well-known actors to engage in racist humor.
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