Baldwin as Prizefighting Intellectual, Baldwin as Improvising Intellectual
This chapter investigates the contingencies among American masculinity, American citizenship, and African American identity. It argues that James Baldwin's essays, like “The Fight,” punched out creative cultural space for his fictional characters to fill in with improvised narratives about manhood, democracy, and African American identity. “The Fight” presents Baldwin at a philosophical crossroads: he was completely invested in the fight for Negro political equality. His essays accentuate a striking style of black intellectual practice: the black intellectual as prizefighter. The improvised expression of suffering, community, and freedom inspires Baldwin's closing. By 1965 the rise in popularity of black nationalism, the aggressive, militant, and politically necessary ideas of Black Power and Black Art, crowded Baldwin out of his position as the primary independent public intellectual voice of the civil rights movement.
Keywords: American masculinity, American citizenship, African American identity, James Baldwin, The Fight, prizefighter, black nationalism, civil rights movement