University of Delaware Special Collections recently acquired a signed copy of the first American edition of James Baldwin’s screenplay One Day, When I was lost. Baldwin’s screenplay is an adaptation of The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1964), which recounts the transformation of Malcolm Little from street hustler to Malcolm X, second most powerful leader of the Nation of Islam, and, finally, to El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Islam-inspired spokesperson for racial reconciliation and black self-determination. The Autobiography came out one year before Malcolm’s X’s assassination in 1965, and was based on interviews between the leader and writer Alex Haley. One Day, When I was Lost is the only screenplay Baldwin published. A signed copy of this lesser known text is a particular rarity.
In Baldwin’s impressionistic adaption of the Autobiography, Malcolm’s impending assassination becomes an indictment of American racism. During the writing of the screenplay, Baldwin had a parting of the ways with Columbia Pictures over his artistic vision for the project. While the scenario was never used as the basis for a film, it was a source for two documentaries about Malcolm X.
Other Baldwin first editions held in U Del Special Collections are his plays Blues for Mister Charley (1964) and The Amen Corner (1969). Special Collections also possesses a proof copy of Baldwin’s stunning autobiographical first novel, Go Tell it on the Mountain, as well as editions of his other important novels, essays and poetry collections. Certain of these copies bear the author’s signature.
University of Delaware Special Collections also has a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, signed by Alex Haley. The copy is inscribed to poet Imiri Baraka (Leroi Jones).
Other Baldwin first editions in Special Collections
The Evidence of Things not Seen (1985)
Jimmy’s Blues; 1st American ed. (1985)
Tell Me how Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968)
Going to Meet the Man (1965)