James Baldwin

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James Baldwin (1924-1987)


Contents
Life
Literature Works
Death
Inspirations and Playwrights

Life

Emma Berdis Jones gave birth to James Arthur Jones in Harlem New York on August 2, 1924. Three years later James Arthur Jones’ mother Emma married a man by the name of David Baldwin who adopted James hence changing his name to James Baldwin. David Baldwin a factory worker and a preacher with a store front church were cruel and strict on James the eldest of nine children. This put a serious strain on their relationship. James because of the strain and in search of his step father’s approval and love and a religious calling started preaching at a young age. It was during this time, in the pulpit he also unknowingly was learning how to write. He preached several sermons and at times gathering larger crowds than his stepdad. James not only struggled with his and his stepdad’s relationship he also faced other struggles. He never knew or met his biological father, struggled with his own sexual identity, and racism being born of African descent. James lived between America and France dubbing France as his second home. His hopes of living in France were to shake the exposure to color and sexuality prejudices that existed in America. While he still experienced the prejudices in France it was not on the same scale as he would have experienced in America. James left the pulpit after about three years of preaching and knew he would have to leave his parents home as well. After graduating high school in 1942 and leaving the pulpit James started working for the railroad and holding various other jobs, one as a waiter before getting a one way ticket to Paris.



Literature Works

James Baldwin authored and coauthored many works. James authored works in many styles; novels, short stories, essays, play, poems, articles, and notes. James’ works are difficult to put in an absolute order. The only way to put Baldwin’s work in chronological order is by publication dates. One reason for this difficulty is you can write several pieces but it is not until it is publicized that you can be recognized as a writer globally. In the case of James Baldwin he actually started publishing articles in Commentary and the Nation in his late teens. His first novel “Go Tell It on the Mountain” immediately earned him recognition as a leading African American Writer. A lot of Baldwin’s work was a compilation of essays or notes that provided the basis for some of his works. For instant, “Notes of a Native Son” was essays and notes compiled after his stepdads death. Some of Baldwin’s work resulted in play production. For example in 1955 Baldwin came back to America to oversee the production of his first play “The Amen Corner.” This play was reproduced once in 1964 and again in 1965, in New York and Los Angles. Also some of Baldwin’s work was manufactured into short stories. One in particular “Going to Meet the Man” resulted in the short story “Sonny’s Blues” a short story that graces the inside of literature text books today. All Baldwin’s works even the fictional works are from personal experiences personally are close ties with an individual. Also Baldwin’s work also made him known as a Civil Rights Activist. Baldwin’s work as an activist was the reasoning behind the 1963 collection of essays “The Fire Next Time”. “The Fire Next Time was an analysis of racism through the eyes of the Black Muslim Party. “The Fire Next Time” was also deemed his most volatile work on the political seems. Despite his race and sexual identity Baldwin is regarded as one of the most influential African American Writers.
Works
Dates
Style
Go Tell It on the Mountain
1953
Novel
Notes of a Native Son
1955
Essay Notes
Giovanni's Room
1956
Novel
Nobody knows my name
1961
Essay Notes
Another Country
1962
Novel
The Fire Next Time
1963
Essay
Blues for Mister Charlie
1964
Play
Going to Meet The Man
1965
Short Storie
Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
1968
Novel
The Amen Corner
1968
Play
A Rap on Race
1971
Notes
No Name In the Street
1972
Essays
One Day when I was lost
1973
Play
If Beale Street Could Talk
1974
Novel
The Devil finds work
1976
Essay
Just above my head
1979
Novel
Jimmy Blues
1985
Poem
The Evidence of Things Not Seen
1985
Article
The Price of a Ticket
1985
Nonfiction

Death

Baldwin died in his home in France on December 1 1987. Baldwin death was from a result of stomach cancer. Baldwin spent his remaining years still writing and working on autobiographies. In 1985 he published “The Evidence of Things Not Seen” for playboy magazine. This article was an account of unsolved murders in 1980 and 1981 of 28 black kids. At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst he was one of the College Professors in the Afro-American Studies Department in 1983. Prior till Baldwin’s death he spent most of his time in St. Paul de Vence, France. At the time of his death he was working on a play and an autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. Although he died in France he was buried in America in Ardsley, New York.


Inspirations and Playwrights


Although his work was rejected at times by publishers, Baldwin started winning awards dating back to 1948 when he won a Rosenwald Fellowship award. Baldwin was encouraged by novelist like Richard Wright. Richard Wright and James Baldwin met in 1942 while he was writing book reviews for “Commentary and The Nation. Wright liked Baldwin’s work and encouraged him to continue. Through out the years and despite Wright’s and Baldwin’s antagonistic relationship they continued to work closely together. Also during that time frame Baldwin worked closely with another novelist by the name of Chester Himes. During the 1960’s when Baldwin cemented his name in Civil Rights History he acquainted the likes of people and became good friends too with individuals like Medgar Evers, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, and Malcolm X. Baldwin’s work remains etched in history and has sparked valuable critical studies from other inspiring writers and authors. For instance, writer Marja Eckman’s “The Furious Passage of James Baldwin” painted a picture of James Baldwin at the height of his career. James who was often criticized wrote stories, essays, novels, and directed and wrote two Broadways plays trying to depicture his life experience as well as the racism and prejudices in America offering a solution in his works.