Nicholas Buccola’s captivating new book, The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr. and the Debate over Race in America, not only masterfully re-creates the debate in dramatic detail, but provides critical context, illuminating the road that each man traveled to Cambridge, and the groundbreaking work that established Baldwin and Buckley as iconic figures on opposite sides of the battle over racial justice and white supremacy that divided the country then as today. The Fire Is Upon Us emerges as a fascinating study in contrasts, not just in the vast chasm that separated Buckley’s and Baldwin’s racist and antiracist ideas, but in the motivations and temperaments of the men who espoused them.
Nicholas Buccola’s The Fire Is Upon Us is both a dual biography of Buckley and Baldwin and an acute commentary on a great intellectual prizefight ... Buccola, a professor of political science at Linfield College, deftly guides the reader through the rhetorical and philosophical moves of Baldwin’s speech ... The Fire Is Upon Us becomes revelatory in its interpretation of Buckley’s performance ... It is tempting to view the Baldwin-Buckley debate as a small victory for the idea of racial equality: Baldwin carried the floor vote 544 to 164. But part of the wisdom of The Fire Is Upon Us is that it leaves the import of the evening open to question.
Buccola...grounds this engaging comparison between James Baldwin...and prominent conservative William F. Buckley in a debate between the two held at the Cambridge Union on Feb. 18, 1965 ... An elucidating work that makes effective use of comparison and contrast.