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James Arthur Baldwin
(August 2, 1924 - November 30, 1987) U.S.A.

James Baldwin

Writer and Civil Rights Activist


James BaldwinJames Baldwin is an African American writer, playwright and Civil Rights Activist, born in Harlem, New York City, to a poor unmarried woman, Emma Berdis Jones. For a short time in his youth he followed his father's steps as a preacher, and this has been among the influences on his prose.

In 1948, James Baldwin walked into a restaurant knowing that the establishment did not serve African Americans; after being denied a seat, Baldwin threw a glass of water at a waitress, shattering a mirror behind the bar. Soon after, Baldwin expatriated and settled in France, having grown increasingly disillusioned with the social structures of America.

James BaldwinHe left home at age of 17 and subsequent travels included long expatriation in France. Baldwin died of stomach cancer.

His novel Giovanni's Room, was about gay love and became a metaphor for the proverbial closet. Baldwin was not afraid to speak out on issues of oppression. An expatriate, Baldwin urged American society to discard its myths. He felt the most destructive one was "white superiority."

As an openly gay black writer, Baldwin occupied a key role in fictionalizing gay life in a racialized society, and presenting it not, as was frequently the case in the pre-Stonewall days, as a desperate existence of suffering individuals, but as the identity to be embraced and celebrated.

An excellent Philadelphia gay bookstore borrowed the title for its name.


James BaldwinA prolific writer his works include very famous titles like:

  • Go Tell it on the Mountain (1953)
  • The Amen Corner (play 1954)
  • Notes of a Native Son (non-fiction 1955)
  • Giovanni's Room (1956)
  • Nobody Knows My Name (non-fiction 1960)
  • Another Country (1962)
  • The Fire Next Time (essay 1963)
  • Blues for Mister Charlie (play 1964)
  • Going To Meet the Man (1965)
  • Thell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone (1968)
  • No Name in the Street (essay 1972)
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (1974)
  • The Devil Finds Work (essay 1976)
  • Just Above My Head (1979)
  • The Evidence of Things Not Seen (essay 1985)
  • The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction (1985)

Source: excerpts from: Gabriele Griffin, Who's Who in Lesbian and Gay and Writing, Routledge, London, 2002 - http://lgbt-history-archive.tumblr.com/ - et alii.

"What is it you want me to reconcile myself to? I was born here almost sixty years ago; I'm not gonna live another sixty years. You always told me it takes time; it's taken my father's time, my mother's time, my uncle's time, my brothers' and my sisters' time, my nieces' and my nephews' time. How much time do you want, for your progress ?" - James Baldwin, 1989.

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