Author James Arthur Baldwin (1924-1987) has gained international recognition for his courageous expression of African American life in the United States.
James Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924, in Harlem, New York, the oldest of nine children. His father was a lay preacher in the holy Pentecostal sect, and at the age of 14, Baldwin was also ordained a preacher. At 18, he graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School and, in 1944, met Richard Wright, who helped him obtain a scholarship that allowed Baldwin the financial freedom to devote himself solely to literature. In 1948 Baldwin concluded that the American social tenor was stifling his creativity, and he went to Europe with the financial assistance of the Rosenwald scholarship. In Europe, Baldwin directed Tell It on the Mountain (1953), Notes of a Native Son (1955), and Giovanni’s Room (1956).
A spokesperson for the Civil Rights Movement
Upon his return to the United States after nine years abroad, Baldwin became the most prominent literary critic of African American civil rights. Baldwin, a popular speaker in the conference circuit, quickly discovered that the social conditions of African Americans had become even grimmer abroad. At the beginning of the 1960s and the intensification of violence in the South, there was more and more resentment. Baldwin responded with three persuasive essays: No One Knows My Name (1961), Fire Next Time (1963), in which he almost predicted that there would be an explosion of black rage and more notes on his biological son. These highly inflammatory works are accompanied by another third novel, The Second Country (1962). Going to meet a man (1965) is a group of captivating stories from the same period. Meanwhile, Baldwin’s commentary on a photograph of Richard Avedon was published under the title Nothing Personal (1964), and four years later, another novel appeared, “Tell me how long the train has been gone.
Also, in the mid-1960s, two Baldwin plays appeared on Broadway. Amen Corner, first performed in Washington DC in 1955, was presented at the Ethel Barrymore Theater in New York in April 1965. A tone similar to Say It on the Mountain conveys the religious emotion of holiness – the Pentecostal sect. Charlie’s Blues, which premiered at the Broadway ANTA Theater in April 1964, is based on the murder of Emmett Till.
The murders of three of Baldwin’s friends – Medgar Evers, Reverend Martin Luther King, young black Muslim leader Malcolm X – dashed any hope Baldwin had for racial reconciliation in the United States and returned to France in the early 1970s. His later pieces include If Beale Street Can’t Talk (1974) and Just Above My Head (1979). Non-fantastic writings of the period include Untitled on the Street (1972), The Devil Finds a Work (1976), Questioning African-Americans in the Film Industry, and Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985), Consideration of the Racial Issue of the 1979 and 1980 Killings of Children in Atlanta in Atlanta. Poetry, Jimmy’s Blues, was published in 1985.
A literary achievement
Baldwin’s most significant success as a writer was his ability to access American race relations from a psychological point of view. In his essays and fiction, he explored the implications of racism for the oppressed and the oppressed, repeatedly suggesting that everyone suffers in a racist climate. Baldwin’s fiction and works also explore the burdens that an insensitive society can impose on a sensitive person. Two of his most famous works, the novel Tell It on the Mountain and the play Amen Corner, inspired his years at the Pentecostal church in Harlem. For example, in Tell It on the Mountain, a teenager struggles with a repressive stepfather and experiences a charismatic spiritual awakening. Baldwin’s latest novels honestly deal with homosexuality and interracial romantic relationships: love, both in its sexual and spiritual forms, has become an essential component of the quest for self-realization of Baldwin and his characters.
Subjects and techniques
Baldwin’s prose is characterized by a style of beauty and revealing power. His language seems to have been deliberately chosen to shock and upset, awaken, distract, and ultimately shake the reader of convenience into a state of anxiety. Its central themes are repeated: the terrible attraction of love and hatred among black and white Americans; the constant war in an obsessed with reverse sexuality between guilt or shame and ecstatic abandonment; and moral, spiritual and ethical values such as purity of motives and interior wholeness, the gift of sharing and spreading love, the charm of good against evil. Tune your inner ear with the severe social disturbance of modern life and with a grateful ecstasy of artistic achievement. All of these positive values have been established in the ongoing war against racism, industrialism, materialism, and the global power struggle. Everything that degrades the human mind is attacked with energy and indignation.
Baldwin remained abroad for most of the last 15 years of his life but never gave up his American citizenship. However, the citizens of France Baldwin embraced it as one of their own, and in 1986 he received one of the country’s highest compliments when he was appointed commander of the Legion of Honor. James Baldwin died of gastric cancer on November 30, 1987, in Saint-Paul-de-Vance, France, and was buried in Harlem. One of the last works that he published throughout his life was the anthology of an essay well regarded as the price of a ticket: composed non-fiction, 1948-1985.