An American essayist and novelist, born in 1924 in Hampton, James Baldwin who addressed the issue of race in 20th century america. He grew up poor, in a black ghetto and in the 1930s, during a time when racism encompassed the whole of America and Baldwin too was subjected to it all his life.
His work revolves around the racial and social issues that existed in 20th century america.
James Baldwin never knew his biological father who was a drug addict, owing to this reason his mother left his father and moved to Harlem where she gave birth to James baldwin. Baldwin was the eldest to his 8 siblings. Baldwin figured out his affinity toward writing at an early age and was exceptional at it too. He wrote his first article when he was only 13, this article was published in his school magazine. Throughout his teenage years Baldwin published short stories and essays in local literary magazines. In his young teenage years Baldwin was a youth minister at the church. Bldwin was a devout christian, this could be because his father was a baptist minister. In later years of his life, he refused to being religious however his religious attitude shaped his perception to a great extent.
Throughout his life he faced incidents of racism, some of which he addresses in his work as well.
In 1943, he moved to Greenwich village to pursue literature and work with other writers and literaries. During his time at Greenwich he was also able to secure a writing fellowship. At this time Baldwin’s short stories were being published and not in local but well recognized and reputed magazines.
About 3 years later Baldwin emigrated to France under another fellowship where he would not be treated with the racist remarks of the American and would be able to make a name for himself beyond his african -american community. In France he was met with his sexual conflict and hoped to come to terms with it and understand it better.
Baldwin wrote his first novel Go Tell It on the Mountain which was published in 1953. a near autobiographical novel which revolves around a young teenager growing up in Harlem, New York and his relationship with his father and the church. The book deals with several issues that prevailed in america. It talks about racism, poverty, Harlem, New York, basically all the things that Baldwin endured in his childhood are mentioned in this work through the eyes of another character.
Giovanni’s Room, was his second novel released in 1954, which deals with the sexul ambivalence of a man, and his relationship with other men living in paris. Homosexuality was a tabboo during that time and who else could have talked about a topic so contreversial if not Baldwin.
Baldwin’s subsequent novels Another Country and Tell Me How Long The Train’s Been Gone, talk about race and homosexuality.
James Baldwin is known for his thought inducing essays. He had the ability to write about an issue giving the reader another highly intellectual way to look at it. In addition to being an important literary figure of the 20th century he was also an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement.
Baldwin in 1987 died in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France due to stomach cancer leaving his work enriched with revolution behind.