The Sunday Magazine

Renowned dancer Bill T. Jones on James Baldwin's life and legacy

James Baldwin, who died in 1987, was one of the most charismatic, important African-American writers of the 20th century. A new documentary film about his life and legacy opened in Canada this week. We revisit Michael's interview with renowned dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones about Baldwin's legacy.
Author James Baldwin, shown on a Harlem street in New York City, in this June 3, 1963 file photo. ( Associated Press)

This story originally aired in November 2014.

We've looked at issues of race — and the African-American experience — many times on The Sunday Edition in the program's 20 years on the air. One of the most memorable conversations was about the activist, novelist, poet, essayist and playwright James Baldwin.

Baldwin died at the age of 63, in 1987. On what would have been his 90th birthday, in 2014, Michael Enright spoke about his life and legacy with Bill T. Jones.

At the time of the interview, the United States was in the midst of heightened tensions between black and white Americans, even with the country's first African-American president in the White House.

That year, a performance group called New York Live Arts staged a festival called James Baldwin, This Time!

Bill T. Jones is the group's artistic director and one of America's most celebrated dancers and choreographers. He's been the subject of several television documentaries; and his boatload of awards includes two Tony Awards for choreography, a 2010 Kennedy Center Honor and the 2013 National Medal of Arts.

This is a reprise of that conversation.

Click 'listen' above to hear the full interview.