The Fire Next Time Questions and Answers
by James Baldwin

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Where does the title The Fire Next Time come from and what does it mean?

The title comes from “Mary Don’t You Weep,” a Negro spiritual. The line goes, “God gave Noah the rainbow sign / No more water, the fire next time.” The “first time” humanity failed, God flooded the earth and instructed Noah to build an ark. Instead of ending the world with water, God will end it with fire next time. Baldwin interprets this line to mean that if we fail to solve the issue of racial inequality, we (or God) will bring a destructive fire upon our civilization.

What does Baldwin say is the difference between acceptance and integration?

Baldwin believes that it is critical for black people to accept white people, even though white people do not deserve it. He is in favor of racial coexistence, but he does not believe that black people should try to become more like white people. Baldwin believes that the only thing white people have that black people need is power. He also believes that the only way for black people to obtain real power in America is to embrace racial integration. He acknowledges the Nation of Islam’s justified anger but feels that their proposed separatist solutions are unlikely to succeed.

What does Baldwin believe is necessary for people to do in order to bring down a society?

Baldwin says that all people do not need to be evil in order for a society to fall apart; they only need to be “spineless.” As an example, he looks to Nazi Germany and argues that if we are apathetic and passive, we could easily have another massive genocide similar to the Holocaust.

Baldwin also states that in a post–World War II world, we have to acknowledge that large-scale racial or religious extermination is possible anywhere—even in America. Though white Americans were shocked to witness the extent of the genocide in WWII Germany, black Americans were less surprised, having faced institutionalized discrimination—and the apathy of...

(The entire section is 448 words.)