One of the happier literary occurrences of recent years is the vibrant revival of James Baldwin’s work — which certainly never went away but has been front and center thanks, in part, to dispiriting headlines about race relations in the United States; Ta-Nehisi Coates’s best-selling “Between the World and Me” (inspired in structure and spirit by Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time”); and the documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” narrated entirely by Samuel L. Jackson reading Baldwin’s own words.
“The Fire Next Time” (1963) is, among other things, one of the most powerful books that can just about fit in one’s pocket. Much less totable is a new limited-edition letterpress version of the book, oversize and filled with stunning photos from the civil rights era by Steve Schapiro, issued by the art publisher Taschen.
In a new introduction, Representative John Lewis of Georgia writes of Schapiro’s work: “All at once he conveys the passion of the moment and the strategic action, but also the simple dignity and the evident humanity of these characters of history, rejected in their own time but lauded for their contribution today.”
Fewer than 2,000 copies were printed, priced at $200 each. But all readers can hear Schapiro discuss the book and his experiences at two scheduled events in New York City: at the Strand Book Store on May 15, and at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on May 17.