No Name in the Street (1972)

No Name in the Street was written between 1967 and 1971, a difficult time for Baldwin, as he saw what was happening in the United States, lost people dear to him, and faced professional problems as well. The result is a book that is more timely than The Fire Next Time, which had been more philosophical and dealt less with the immediate events of the time. The end of the nineteen-sixties were a difficult period, after his failure in Hollywood and the criticism he received from young radicals, which made him feel ever more estranged. Traveling between Istanbul, Paris and the United States, he worked on No Name, which was eventually published in 1972. The book “dispenses with strict chronology in order to suggest parallels and significant connections that might otherwise be missed” (Leeming 313), connecting the assassinations, the Black Panthers and the Maynard case to reveal “the hell that lies beneath American hypocrisy” (Leeming 313). Furthermore, Leeming describes it as “an autobiographically based search for identity that reveals the moral failure of white Americans, who are as blind in 1969 to the curse that undermines the nation as they had been in the days when Baldwin first realized that his humanity was somehow invisible to them” (313). In many ways, it was a sequel to The Fire Next Time, but one that showed greater despair about the racial situation. This is perhaps most evident from his extensive discussion of the death of Martin Luther King and its aftermath, as well as the description of Tony Maynard’s case and what it means for the justice system. One interesting aspect of the book is that even though it was written over a period of four years, 1968 seems to be at the heart of it all, in particular because it was the year of King’s death, an event that had a tremendous impact on Baldwin, along with several other race-related incidents. Overall, the book was not as well-received as some of Baldwin’s other works, although critics admired him for his ability to write about these issues despite his personal feelings. Ultimately, this reflection of the late nineteen-sixties is another important work by Baldwin that shows his views on the issues of the period.

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