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The Evidence of Things Not Seen by James Baldwin

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New York : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1985. First edition. Hardcover. 125 pages ; 23 cm. $11.95 dust jacket. Cigarette odor within the pages. Previous owner bookplate on the front free endpaper. A good copy; no underlines or markings within the pages. Satisfaction guaranteed!


"In June, 1981, after twenty-two months and twenty-eight corpses, Wayne Bertram Williams, then twenty-three, was arrested for murder. That he is Black is important, since the Administration of the city is Black, and all of the murdered children were Black." Using the Wayne Williams/ Atlanta child-murder case both as subject and springboard, one of America's major writers assesses, in his own terms and from his own viewpoint, the State of the Union in the mid-1980s.

Taking his title from St. Paul: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, " Baldwin ranges over the whole spectrum of American life, with the focus on the problems—and in his opinion continuing plight—of Blacks in White America. It is a book about memory and the inability to remember ("What one does not remember is the serpent in the garden of one's dreams. "); about terror ("Sometimes I think, one child in Atlanta said to me, that I'll be coming home from baseball or football practice and somebody's car will come behind me and I'll be thrown in the trunk of the car and it will be dark and he'll drive the car away and I'll never be found again. . . . Never be found again: that terror is far more vivid than the fear of death. "); about justice and the lack thereof ("Beneath the microscope of the inquisition, everything this creature [Wayne Williams] does is suspect."); about guilt and innocence; about fear and anger. Its burning pages raise crucial questions about basic relationships: between men and women, parents and children, Blacks and Whites.

Baldwin uses fact and documentary evidence as a basis for searing speculation and thoughtful analysis, in a constant search for larger truths. It is his update on the progress—or lack of progress—of the American Dream. As such, it deserves a careful reading by all Americans, regardless of race or creed.