What you will learn:

There was no idea more important to James Baldwin than love. In his novels, plays, essays, and activism, he grappled with the meaning of love and how to find it in our lives. Baldwin's understanding of love was not the sort you'd find in a greeting card. Instead, his understanding of love was tough, philosophical, and even confrontational. On the personal level, Baldwin described love as a virtue that forces us to "take off the masks we fear we cannot live without, but know we cannot live within." Baldwin believed that loving oneself requires us to engage in ruthless introspection about who we take ourselves to be and who we want to become. To love another person, Baldwin explained, one must be willing to reveal to the beloved what she might not see. Politically, Baldwin famously said that his love for America was at the root of his sense of responsibility to criticize her perpetually.

In this Elective, Nick utilizes Baldwin's life and work as the basis for several opportunities to reflect on the meaning of love and how it might matter in our quest to create a world that is more equitable and inclusive. What can Baldwin's first novel, which he once called "love song" for his father, teach us about the relationship between love, authority, and identity? What did Baldwin learn about love while he was traveling the back roads of Mississippi with civil rights superhero Medgar Evers as Evers was investigating yet another act of racist violence in the state? What did the playwright Lorraine Hansberry teach Baldwin about love through her art and activism? Why might Baldwin's famous debate with conservative William F. Buckley Jr. be best understood as an argument about love? Through these and other examples, this interactive Elective will provide your team members with opportunities to think about their own identities, their relationships with others, and how they might draw on Baldwin's philosophy of love to make the world more just.

About the instructor:

Nicholas Buccola is the award-winning author of The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America. He has also written or edited books on Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. His essays have been published in numerous scholarly journals as well as popular outlets such as the New York Times, Salon, and Dissent. He is also an award-winning teacher at Linfield University, where he is the Elizabeth and Morris Glicksman Chair in Political Science.
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Suggested Length:75 min
# of Employees: Flexible
Delivery: Live via Zoom
Available Formats:
  • Keynote Followed by Q&A
  • Lecture with Discussion
  • Interactive Workshop

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