DEBATE | Baldwin and Buckley, 1965

Waiting for Mrs. F. to get home last night, I had a drink and watched Martin Scorsese’s “Public Speaking,” a documentary on noted New York wit Fran Lebowitz.

Another Morris County native, Lebowitz shares her introduction to the American intellectual conversation with Scorcese — speeches by the author James Baldwin. Scorsese then cuts to the seminal 1965 debate between Baldwin and William F. Buckley Jr. at Cambridge.

Baldwin and Buckley undertake the question, “Is the American Dream at the expense of the American Negro?”

Baldwin’s answer to the question, which he described as hideously loaded, is one of the great speeches of the civil rights era. And Buckley, of course, is Buckley in all his erudite glory.

It is, naturally, a remarkable debate. Baldwin and Buckley are simply joys to listen to. It’s also a bit sad, as such a debate would probably not be possible in today’s America.

Here’s a clip of Baldwin’s performance:

The library at Berkeley has digitized the entire debate.

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