The Fire Next Time The Driver
by James Baldwin

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The Driver

The driver was an unnamed young black man who drove Baldwin to a “white address” after his dinner with Elijah Muhammad. He was one of the men who joined Baldwin and Elijah Muhammad at dinner. The driver is described as wearing a dark suit and agreeing with everything Elijah Muhammad said. Baldwin was annoyed by this constant agreement, but he understood how the combination of Muhammad’s intense magnetism and the young men’s “bitter isolation” and the “despair of the streets outside” could lead them to believe in the Nation of Islam’s highly unlikely solutions.

At dinner, Baldwin voiced his dissent over the elimination of all white people, but he did not push Elijah Muhammad on the practical limitations of his plan for black people to take states back from the US as a form of reparations for slavery. After the dinner ended, Muhammad insisted that a driver take Baldwin safely to his next destination, and one of the young men from dinner drove Baldwin to a friend’s house.

In the car, Baldwin felt more comfortable voicing his concerns and questions about how the Nation of Islam intended to carry out its plans. When Baldwin pressed the young driver about how the Nation of Islam would achieve its goals, the driver had no answers, but he was insistent that the world would never return to the way it was before the Nation of Islam arose. Baldwin identifies the driver as a representative of the next generation of black men.