The James Baldwin Tapes: Original Cassette Recordings of Alex Haley Interviewing James Baldwin for an Unpublished Playboy Interview, with Haley's Notes

[New York / London? 1967-1968].

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Unbound. Five audio cassettes. Each cassette with printed labels. Three tapes identified in type as Master copies (Tape A, sides 1 and 2; Tape B, sides 1 and 2; Tape B, side 1 only). The tapes have a full running time of 3 hours and 39 minutes. Some background noise, but voices otherwise clear and crisp. The other two tapes are identified as copies (confirmed). Some foxing on the cassette labels.

Audio has been verified and digitized into an .mp3 file, which has been included in this lot via USB stick. Also accompanied by two sets of staple-bound interview "prompt" notes (about 4” x 6”) in green ink in the hand of Alex Haley; six pages total, undated, but with a London address on one of the headers. Descended from the estate of Alex Haley.

In the fall and winter of 1967-68, Alex Haley interviewed James Baldwin for the always-vibrant *Playboy* interviews, across two or more sessions. *Playboy* prided itself on their approach to the interview format: exhaustive, in-depth, and insightful. During this period Baldwin was trying to adapt Haley's *The Autobiography of Malcolm X* for film. Ultimately, it was an interview that *Playboy* chose not to publish, despite boasting about it in their '67-68 holiday issues as "Coming in the months ahead." *Playboy* doesn't seem to have publicly addressed their reasons for not publishing the interview.

Also preserved are two sets of manuscript notes, presumably interview prompts, from Haley written in his characteristic green ink. In the conclusion to one set of prompts, Haley clarified his mind before the interview: "Want: Despair, Rage, Hope, Pathos—really: [Baldwin's] emotional... spectrum." Across more than 3½ hours of recordings, Haley got much of this emotional spectrum, sometimes calculated, sometimes passionate.

With awkward responses, glasses clinking, and a few deep inhales and laughing-coughs, Baldwin speaks widely on subjects as diverse as William Blake, and about Doris Day as an impossible virgin. Some of the themes covered are: race (as experience, as construct, as Hegelian problem of false recognition), sexuality (homosexuality, bisexuality, interracial sex, and marriage), riots, nonviolence, protests, ghettos, Vietnam, the end of imperialism, the nature of black celebrity, suicide (including details of Baldwin's last attempt in Paris)homelessness in New York, expatriate culture, electoral politics and the need for a third American party, and the then-contemporary hippie and countercultural movements. In the second interview, almost certainly recorded in January of 1968, one hears Baldwin's thoughts on the still-living Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., along with other notable figures such as Malcolm X, Bobby Kennedy, Muhammad Ali, Jesus, William Blake, and the fictional Sambo.

A splendid primary source for Baldwin's thinking, as well as his interactions with another important black author.


Item #435052

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The James Baldwin Tapes: Original Cassette Recordings of Alex Haley Interviewing James Baldwin for an Unpublished Playboy Interview, with Haley's Notes. James BALDWIN, Alex Haley.
The James Baldwin Tapes: Original Cassette Recordings of Alex Haley Interviewing James Baldwin for an Unpublished Playboy Interview, with Haley's Notes
The James Baldwin Tapes: Original Cassette Recordings of Alex Haley Interviewing James Baldwin for an Unpublished Playboy Interview, with Haley's Notes