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Striking a Match to America


Imagine what James Baldwin might say if he were alive today.

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we’ll be talking with writer Vincent Tolliver about his one-man play, James Baldwin: Striking a Match to America, An Address at Columbia University, which has been performed in Los Angeles and Atlanta.

The play imagines James Baldwin alive today talking to the American people about writing, race, and reparations. 


Credit Sjakkelien Vollebregt
James Baldwin lecturing in 1984.

An excerpt from the play:

It is evening and Mr. James Baldwin walks on stage of an auditorium at Columbia University in New York City at 116th/Broadway, just blocks from his Childhood Harlem. He adjusts the microphone at the podium and clears his throat, simultaneously. "Good evening. I am a cool, lean, agile, black Harlem cat. Those of you who have heard something about me prior to this evening, or who know me or perhaps have heard something of the name or read one of the novels or essays, indeed know I've been in utter seclusion for hundreds of years, so it seems. But as you can see, I am very much alive. The Harlem cat is alive!"

Listen to music from Rodney Block
Credit M. E. Kubit
Vincent Tolliver recording in the Arts & Letters Studio at UA Little Rock Public Radio

Writer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist, Tim Anthony
Musician Rodney Block

Vincent Tolliver is a writer from the backwoods of Lake Village, Arkansas. A Distinguished James Baldwin Scholar, he has a B.A. in English Literature from Langston University. He worked as Chief Regulatory Officer for Angstrom SMO and Executive Director of The Stringer Foundation (now Korey Stringer Institute) at the University of Connecticut. Tolliver splits his time between Los Angeles, Little Rock, and Atlanta.

Thank you to musicians Tim Anthony and Alvis Diabb. A special thanks to Rodney Block, who created the soundscape and the majority of the music for the score. 

Generous funding for this episode was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Executive Producer & Host: J. Bradley Minnick Producer & Story Editor: Mary Ellen Kubit Sound Mastering: Simon Sound Services Intern: Brian Williams

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