James Baldwin, “Going to Meet the Man”
Jesse begins in a state of impotence because, “This was his wife. He could not ask
her to do just a little thing for him, just to help him out for a while, the way he
could ask a n----- girl to do it,” (229).
Not his anger that the blacks in his community just haven’t ‘learned’. One must
ask, learned what?
His wife is described as a ‘frail sanctuary.’
As Jesse considers the civil rights protestors: “And he was a good man, a God-
fearing man, he tried to do his duty all his life, and he had been a deputy sheriff
for several years. Nothing had ever bothered him before, certainly not getting it
up. Sometimes, sure, like any other man, he knew he wanted a little more spice
than Grace could give him and he would drive over yonder and pick up a black
piece or arrest her, it came to the same thing, but he couldn’t do that now, no
For comfort he wants to bury himself in his wife ‘like a child’.
The racist logic: “They were animals, they were no better than animals, what
could be done with people like that? Here they had been in a civilized country for
years and they still lived like animals….” (231).
He considers working for a mail-order company that cheated African-Americans
‘blind’ merely just ‘doing his job,’ and blames the black community because,
“They were too dumb to know they were being cheated blind…They would be
late – they didn’t have the sense to put money aside; but it was easy to scare them,
and he never really had any trouble,” (231).
The brutality is precipitated by a simple effort to register African-Americans to
vote. The thing that seems to particularly offend the father is that the protestors
would not stop singing, even as they were being beaten.
Why do you think this
would be so upsetting?
“He was lying on the ground jerking and moaning, they had threw him in a cell by
himself, and blood was coming out of his ears from where Big Jim C. and his
boys had whipped him. Wouldn’t you think that they’d learn? I put the prod to
him and he jerked some more and he kind of screamed – but he didn’t have much