The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Start Your Free Trial

What is the main argument of James Baldwin in "Down at the Cross" in The Fire Next Time?

Expert Answers info

Domenick Franecki eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write4,265 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In this essay (published first in the New Yorker in 1962 and titled in full "Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind"), Baldwin examines the ways in which Christianity and the Nation of Islam have treated African Americans and rejects the idea of race as more than what he refers to as a "political reality," rather than a "human reality." He recounts his salvation in a Harlem church when he was a teenager. He sought refuge in the church because he was deathly afraid of growing up as an African American man and facing the dismal possibilities of adulthood he saw around him. He condemns Christianity, which he ultimately rejected, and writes, "In the realm of power, Christianity has operated with an unmitigated arrogance and cruelty." He thinks that Christianity has perpetuated the power structure that has relegated African Americans to the bottom of the social ladder. 

He discusses the power of the Nation of Islam and recounts his meeting with Elijah Muhammad, who seems to want...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 617 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write13,728 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial