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Literature: James Baldwin

By Se'Dashia Thornton
On February 21, 2019

Baldwin

There are endless numbers of African American authors, poets, playwrights, and novelists who have blessed the world with their literary works. One such writer was James Baldwin, who wrote plentiful essays, novels and poems during the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. 

 

Born In Harlem, New York, on Aug. 2, 1924, this Pentecostal preacher left the church and three years later had already become an accomplished writer around the age of 17. In 1948, he moved to Paris because he was overwhelmed with prejudice toward African Americans. He felt as if he couldn’t write freely in the United States because of these events. 

 

Baldwin was also known for his flamboyant personality. He wasn’t afraid to express his sexuality either. He was very open about his relationships with both males and females. So open about them he even wrote a novel called “Giovanni’s Room”. This novel was so controversial because it was the first time anyone has ever addressed the topic of homosexuality all while having all white characters and context that was more in the explicit nature. He felt as if human sexuality should be more free and not so limited. 

 

By 1963, Baldwin was one of the most recognizable African American voices in the United States. His works were considered groundbreaking — then and now —that covered issues that were and are happening in the world. 

 

The novel “The Fire Next Time” was one of his most profound pieces of work that focused on the prejudice and racism against African Americans in America. This novel was his way to express his anger toward these unlawful actions back in the Civil Rights Movement. 

 

On Nov. 30, 1987, Baldwin died of stomach cancer in France, but they buried him in Harlem, New York. Residing in France, Baldwin was given the country’s highest honor which was the Commander of the Legion of Honor. His writings did indeed have such a huge impact on not only the society he lived in but in African American history and U.S. literary history. 

 

In the modern day era, Baldwin’s works still live on. The 2018 film “If Beale Street Could Talk” is based on the book James Baldwin wrote. It even received three Oscar nominations. 

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