The film is based on James Baldwin's unfinished manuscript of 30 pages for a novel which has never before been released to the public. The film, in a way, "finishes" this work by incorporating other interviews and writings by Baldwin and expanding on the themes through archival footage

The film was deemed Best Documentary by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, took home the People's Choice Award from the Toronto International Film Festival and won a creative recognition award from the International Documentary Association, to name a few.

I Am Not Your Negro was one of 15 films included on the shortlist for the best feature documentary Oscar.

The word "negro" is used 78 times in the film.