Last night I saw Raoul Peck‘s I Am Not Your Negro (Magnolia, 2.3.17), an absorbing, above-average doc about legendary writer and activist James Baldwin (1924-1987). Based on an unfinished Baldwin manuscript and narrated by actor Samuel L. Jackson, it won the Toronto Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award, Pic explores U.S. race relations through Baldwin’s recollections of his life and impressions of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr, et. al. I’m very glad I saw it.
I was bothered, however, by one historical detail. All my life I’ve believed that H. Rap Brown‘s famous late ’60s quote went as follows: “Violence is as American as apple pie.” In fact Brown said it was “as American as cherry pie.” Right away I said to myself “no, no…that’s not right.” The America that Brown spoke of used to be a kind of apple-pie country — apple pie being synonymous with Norman Rockwell, Joe Dimaggio, D.C. Comics, chocolate sundaes, saddle socks and penny loafers, Kansas wheat fields, the Brooklyn Dodgers and so on. Nobody eats cherry pie. I’ve never eaten so much as a single mouthful of the stuff, and I don’t expect to. When legend becomes truth, print the legend. Apples, not cherries.