James Baldwin's The Price of the Ticket Summary

Instructor: Nancy Breding

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''The Price of the Ticket'' is an intriguing collection of James Baldwin's articles, essays, and commentaries on race in America. The essays cover his writings from 1948 - 1985. Learn more about these works and about this powerful literary talent. Updated: 01/07/2021

James Baldwin's The Price of the Ticket

James Baldwin was a reviewer in his early days and often wrote commentaries as a moral essayist, outlining his ideas about right and wrong as shaped by his surrounding environment. He often provided guiding ideas in terms of race, sexuality, and racism.

The Price of the Ticket is a compilation of articles, essays, and unabridged nonfiction works. Moving and encompassing of all of his autobiographical works, the book was originally published in 1985 and is set for another publishing release in September, 2021. The Price of the Ticket has writings from 1948 - 1985 and includes some of his most famous works, including:

  • ''Notes of a Native Son''
  • ''Nobody Knows My Name''
  • ''The Fire Next Time''
  • ''Nothing Personal''
  • ''The Devil Finds Work''
  • ''No Name in the Street''

It also includes a few dozen previously uncollected articles, his earlier works like his first collection of essays and both his short and long nonfiction that Baldwin wished to save.

''Notes of a Native Son''

Baldwin was influenced by many contemporaries and wrote about many issues of race in America and Europe. In ''Notes of a Native Son'', Baldwin discusses the stereotypical black descriptions in Uncle Tom's Cabin, Native Son, and Carmen Jones. He feels that those earlier works were often stigmatizing and didn't truly represent the black experience.

The essay has been described as an original work from an original and powerful talent. He gives a bit of an autobiography as he recollects growing up with his biological father and his own experience in Jim Crow style segregation. He writes about blacks participating in the military who were often abused.

''The Fire Next Time''

Baldwin was born in Harlem and raised in poverty. His step-father was a pastor and his upbringing would influence his writing as seen in the essay ''Fire Next Time.''

This work was first published in 1963 and it was Baldwin's plea to end what he called the ''racial nightmare''. He wished for America to view itself as a multiracial society. He saw the political reality of both races needing each other in order to survive as a nation. Despite its title, the essay itself is both hopeful and healing.

''No Name on the Street''

Baldwin uses his own experience of dealing with the assassinations of Medger Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. as a backdrop for ''No Name on the Street''. He speaks of his blackness as he states, ''To be an Afro-American, or an American black, is to be in the situation, intolerably exaggerated, of all those who have never found themselves part of a civilization they could in no wise honorably defend--which they were compelled, indeed, endlessly to attack and condemn--and who yet spoke out of the most passionate love, hoping to make the kingdom new.''

He also revisits his early Harlem childhood and the details that contributed to his worldview along with the later events of the assassinations of his friends. He also discusses his time in Europe and his fury and despair more than any other work.

''Nothing Personal''

Baldwin begins ''Nothing Personal'' with a retelling of his and his friend's experience of profiling as they were mistaken as committing a crime. He describes the America that he has experienced as a nation that has ''nurtured violence'' against black men. He proposes that if a society permits one portion of that society to be menaced or destroyed, ''then, very soon, no one in that society is safe.''

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