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The Fire Is upon Us by Nicholas Buccola
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The Fire Is upon Us

James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America

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Narrator Prentice Onayemi

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Length 14 hours 42 minutes
Language English
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"A great read."—Whoopi Goldberg, The View

Prentice Onayemi narrates the story of how the clash between the civil rights firebrand and the father of modern conservatism continues to illuminate America's racial divide

This audiobook includes as a bonus feature the original audio recording of the Cambridge Union debate


On February 18, 1965, an overflowing crowd packed the Cambridge Union in Cambridge, England, to witness a historic televised debate between James Baldwin, the leading literary voice of the civil rights movement, and William F. Buckley Jr., a fierce critic of the movement and America's most influential conservative intellectual. The topic was "the American dream is at the expense of the American Negro," and no one who has seen the debate can soon forget it. Nicholas Buccola's The Fire Is upon Us is the first book to tell the full story of the event, the radically different paths that led Baldwin and Buckley to it, the controversies that followed, and how the debate and the decades-long clash between the men continues to illuminate America's racial divide today.

Born in New York City only fifteen months apart, the Harlem-raised Baldwin and the privileged Buckley could not have been more different, but they both rose to the height of American intellectual life during the civil rights movement. By the time they met in Cambridge, Buckley was determined to sound the alarm about a man he considered an "eloquent menace." For his part, Baldwin viewed Buckley as a deluded reactionary whose popularity revealed the sickness of the American soul. The stage was set for an epic confrontation that pitted Baldwin's call for a moral revolution in race relations against Buckley's unabashed elitism and implicit commitment to white supremacy.

A remarkable story of race and the American dream, The Fire Is upon Us reveals the deep roots and lasting legacy of a conflict that continues to haunt our politics.

Nicholas Buccola is the author of The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass and the editor of The Essential Douglass and Abraham Lincoln and Liberal Democracy. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, and many other publications. He is the Elizabeth and Morris Glicksman Chair in Political Science at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, and lives in Portland. Prentice Onayemi has narrated hundreds of audiobooks ranging from literary classics and contemporary fiction to autobiographies and scholarly books. He is the narrator of David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom and The Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winter, among other audiobooks.

Nicholas Buccola is the author of The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass and the editor of The Essential Douglass and Abraham Lincoln and Liberal Democracy. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, and many other publications. He is the Elizabeth and Morris Glicksman Chair in Political Science at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, and lives in Portland. Prentice Onayemi has narrated hundreds of audiobooks ranging from literary classics and contemporary fiction to autobiographies and scholarly books. He is the narrator of David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom and The Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winter, among other audiobooks.

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Reviews

"A great read."---Whoopi Goldberg, The View "A gripping snapshot of a country riven by injustice yet anxious about radical change." "The great achievement of Buccola’s The Fire Is upon Us is to make one such moment—in which this promise was fought over—come to life."---Gregor Baszak, Public Books "A study of two acclaimed American thinkers on opposite sides of the political spectrum that underscores the enormous race and class divisions in 1960s America, many of which still exist today. . . . An elucidating work that makes effective use of comparison and contrast." "You can watch James Baldwin’s historic 1965 debate at the Cambridge Union with William F. Buckley Jr. on YouTube. … Buccola’s book reveals the story behind it. The two men were born just 15 months apart, yet grew up in separate Americas. Buccola provides an exegesis of the lives of both men, and an evaluation of a century-defining debate. The fault lines between Buckley and Baldwin are just as relevant as ever."---Soraya Nadia McDonald, The Undefeated "

The Fire Is Upon Us is written for readers on both the left and the right, its prose wonderfully accessible . . . [and it]
holds a mirror up to the strident political and racial divisions of the U.S. in 2019. The language may be a little different today from what Baldwin and Buckley used, but the sharp terms of the debate over whether people of color in the United States get to have the American dream remains the same then as now.

"---Gabrielle Bellot, The Atlantic "[An] engaging and thoughtful book."---Stephen Parkinson, The Critic "Scintillating."---Robert Tsai, Boston Review "The Fire Is Upon Us makes a compelling case for why Baldwin and Buckley were who they were and, in doing so, serves as a good starting point for understanding the nature of the present partisan divide."---Aaron Robertson, LitHub "Rigorous and even-handed. . . . [T]houghtful and generous. . . . The contemporary reader is likely to experience surprise at some of Buckley’s opinions, and to delight at reminders of Baldwin in his heyday."---James Campbell, Wall Street Journal "Baldwin won the debate hands down, but the event itself is mere scaffolding for the more ambitious and interesting book Buccola achieves: a genealogy of how white supremacy­­ — and attempts to slay it — have stayed at the center of American politics for more than half a century, up to and including our Trumpian present."---Bill V. Mullen, Los Angeles Review of Books "Nicholas Buccola's The Fire Is upon Us is a riveting, expansive companion text to a historic debate that swept the nation. . . . Following the men's journeys with meticulous detail, Buccola's biographical/historical/political hybrid proffers valuable insights for the current day." "This is a book I highly recommend all Americans read."---Christian Starr, ThyBlackMan.com "Nicholas Buccola’s captivating new book, The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr. and the Debate over Race in America, not only masterfully re-creates the debate in dramatic detail, but provides critical context, illuminating the road that each man traveled to Cambridge, and the groundbreaking work that established Baldwin and Buckley as iconic figures on opposite sides of the battle over racial justice and white supremacy that divided the country then as today."---Steve Nathans-Kelly, New York Journal of Books "The Fire Is Upon Us . . . sets the context for the epic confrontation, illuminating two vastly different visions of race relations in the United States that, to a great extent, remain relevant today . . . Buccola concludes, provocatively, that although Buckley lost the debate at Cambridge, he used racial resentment to help conservatives capture the Republican party, take control of southern politics, and win the presidency in seven of the last ten elections. The price of victory, he adds, 'has been incredibly high'."---Dr. Glenn Altschuler, Florida Courier "Both a dual biography of Buckley and Baldwin and an acute commentary on a great intellectual prizefight. . . . [Nicholas Buccola] deftly guides the reader through the rhetorical and philosophical moves of Baldwin’s speech. . . . The Fire Is Upon Us becomes revelatory in its interpretation of Buckley’s performance. . . . It is tempting to view the Baldwin-Buckley debate as a small victory for the idea of racial equality: Baldwin carried the floor vote 544 to 164. But part of the wisdom of The Fire Is Upon Us is that it leaves the import of the evening open to question."---Thomas Meaney, New York Times Book Review "Beautifully told and wonderful to read."---Bill Goldstein, Bill’s Books NBC’s Weekend Today in NY "Written with drive and abundant research (including a transcript of both speeches, featuring the first-ever complete published transcript of Buckley’s), ‘Fire’ propels us through the lives and careers that intersected in that momentous face-off. . . . Crackling with intelligence."---John Timpane, TruthDig "Winner of the Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction, Oregon Book Awards" "Shortlisted for the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, Phi Beta Kappa Society" "Shortlisted for the MAAH Stone Book Award, Museum of African American History" "One of Whoopi Goldberg's Favorite Things, ABC The View" "New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice" "Chicago Tribune writer John Warner's Book That Will Help You Better Understand the Messed-Up Nature of the World" "One of The Undefeated's 25 Can't Miss Books of 2019" "One of The Progressive's Favorite Books of 2019" "One of LitHub's 50 Favorite Books of the Year" "One of Inside Higher Ed's Books to Give the Educator in Your Life for the Holidays" Expand reviews
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