In 1963, James Baldwin, aged thirty-nine, published the open letter to his nephew, aged fifteen, that forms the first part of The Fire Next Time. In 2015, Ta-Nehisi Coates, aged thirty-nine, published an open letter to his son, aged fifteen, titled Between the World and Me.1 The book is Coates’s The Fire Next Time.

To use a sample of two is not, of course, in any sense a scientific way to measure the change in relations between black and white in America, or in the condition of whom Baldwin in those days had no hesitation in calling “the Negro”; but it seems to me that no such scientific way really exists, and that if we could say only what could be scientifically proved we should soon be reduced to silence. This is...

 

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