With that James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro in theaters now or just out of theaters and it being Black History month. I’ve read, his short story, Sonny’s Blues many times and Go Tell It on the Mountain is one of those highly rated books on those list of best books of the 20th century, so I decided to read it.
Go Tell It on the Mountain was written in the 1950s and is a semi-autobiographical novel about an African American family living in Harlem in the 1930s and the role that the Pentecostal Church plays in their lives, specifically the lives of John Grimes, a 14 year old and his mother (Elizabeth), father (Gabriel) and aunt (Florence). The main conflict in the novel is between John and his father who hates him for unknown reasons according to John. We learn more about Florence, Elizabeth and Gabriel in flashbacks to how they got here. There is the constant struggle of what make a good person and can a person really change just by saying so. Florence seems to think that Gabriel is still the same person he was growing up even though he has become born again and a deacon in the Church. We get some racial issue sneaking in which seem to express the same concerns today as Black Lives Matter does but Baldwin only acknowledges it as racism existed then and still does today. Sure some progress has been made but not much and it still remains that all of us are held to the same standards by the same God.
The book doesn’t take any sides or point out flaws it just offers that we all are capable at doing good or bad but most of the time we live in between hoping that we do good. It was a nice book to read and should be put on more high school reading lists.