Time Essay: The Great Black and White Secret

In James Baldwin's first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1952), there is a brief early scene in which Baldwin's 14-year-old black hero, John Grimes, takes a headlong run down a hill of melting snow: "At the bottom of the hill, where the ground abruptly leveled off onto a gravel path, he nearly knocked down an old white man with a white beard, who was walking very slowly and leaning on his cane. They both stopped, astonished, and looked at one another. John struggled to catch his breath and apologize, but the old...

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