The intersection of African Americans and violent crime have long constituted each other in American life and the white imagination-literary, sociological and historical. James Baldwin explored this terrain most brilliantly in his essay “Many Thousands Gone” - a passionate critique of both white supremacy and African American protest literature of the Left. The essay is centered around Baldwin’s reading of the notorious literary character Bigger Thomas, a murderer supposedly produced by the injustices of American capitalism. We will read Baldwin’s essay “Many Thousands Gone” and a contemporary chapter of non-fiction that depicts the speeches given by graduates of a college-in-prison program.
Baldwin, James. 1951, “Many Thousands Gone"
Karpowitz, Daniel. 2017. College in Prison: Reading in an Age of Mass Incarceration. Rutgers University Press (pages 111-158)