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In 1965, James Baldwin dared to criticize 'the American dream' — and his words matter more than ever today

As 'I Am Not Your Negro' celebrates Baldwin this Oscars weekend, let's look back at one of the speeches that made him such a remarkable figure in American history.

'What one begs the American people to do, for all our sakes, is simply to accept our history'

In 1965, African-American writer and social critic James Baldwin shared his thoughts on the idea of the American dream. 0:59

Over 50 years ago, African-American writer and social critic James Baldwin shared his thoughts on the idea of the American dream. It was part of a historic debate between Baldwin and American conservative author William F. Buckley held at Cambridge University, and offered insight into issues that still resonate today — perhaps much more than we'd like. 

"The inequality suffered by the American negro population of the United States has hindered the American dream," Baldwin says. "What we are not facing is the results of what we've done. What one begs the American people to do, for all our sakes, is simply to accept our history."

In honour of Raoul Peck's Baldwin-centric documentaryI Am Not Your Negro which is in theatres now and is up for best documentary Oscar this weekend — CBC Arts found this archival footage of Baldwin's speech. It's worth revisiting.

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