How James Baldwin Us to See America

In March 16, 1968, James Baldwin walked to the podium at a fund-raiser, at Anaheim’s Disneyland Hotel, to introduce Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Baldwin had recently arrived in Los Angeles from New York, after Columbia Pictures had bought the rights to Alex Haley’s “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and asked Baldwin to write the script. Though eager, he had ended up fighting desperately to bring his story of Malcolm to the screen. Baldwin wanted Billy Dee Williams to play the lead, but the studio had other actors in mind. There were even rumors that someone had suggested a darkened Charlton Heston.

The fund-raiser was meant to replenish the coffers of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (S.C.L.C.) and to help fund King’s latest project, the Poor People’s Campaign. King wanted to make the case for massive direct action, in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the country’s impoverished. To do so, he would need to marshal greater financial resources than ever before. Desegregating lunch counters didn’t cost much, but ending poverty would cost the nation billions of dollars.

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