Archive for January 27, 2016

James Baldwin, A Pioneer in American Letters

A novelist, essayist, playwright, and public intellectual, James Baldwin’s writings on the subject of race in America undeniably made him one of the greatest African American writers of the 20th century. As the civil rights movement gained momentum in the two decades following World War II, Baldwin landed squarely in the public eye, and his prose communicated the hope and frustration of the fight for racial equality. In James Baldwin: Early Novels and Stories, editor Toni Morrison draws heavily on Baldwin’s early work, including his first novel Go Tell It on the Mountain, as well as Giovanni’s Room, which was praised by the New York Times for its “unusual candor … and intensity.” As pertinent today as it was some 30 years ago, the fiction found in this collection is powerful, eloquent, and a fitting tribute to a consummate writer.

Although he spent a great deal of his life abroad, James Baldwin always remained a quintessentially American writer. Whether he was working in Paris or Istanbul, he never ceased to reflect on his experience as a black man in white America. In numerous essays, novels, plays and public speeches, the eloquent voice of James Baldwin spoke of the pain and struggle of black Americans and the saving power of brotherhood.