Context Series: Nicholas Buccola

“Wow… they get easier after that one, right?” was Dr. Nicholas Buccola’s impressed response when Nick Perez ’20, asked him a challenging question about his view on the equality of the American dream.

Context Nicholas Buccola

Buccola, author of The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America, was the first speaker in the 2019-2020 academic year’s Context Series. The book takes a deep dive into the historic debate on February 18, 1965 between author James Baldwin, who was the leading literary voice of the civil rights movement, and William F. Buckley Jr., then the country’s most influential conservative intellectual, who considered Baldwin to be an “eloquent menace.”

Dr. Buccola read from The Fire Is Upon Us and had a Q&A session with our Upper School history students, who had been asked to read the book and prepare thoughtful questions for discussion. He called Nick’s question “powerful and important,” and explained how Baldwin has changed his thinking about what equality really means.

Our Poly Context speaker series has brought an array of noted personalities to our campus, usually historians, to talk about current events as seen through a historical lens. Previous speakers have included Min Jin Lee, author of the epic historical novel Pachinko; New York Times political correspondent Alex Burns and associate professor of political science Yanna Krupnikov; Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause; and Robert Cort ’64, producer of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex, and New York State Solicitor General Barbara Underwood P’04.