James Baldwin – Profile in Black History

Writer James Baldwin was born on 2 August, 1924 and grew up in Harlem and Greenwich Village in New York City. While working odd jobs, Baldwin wrote short stories, essays, and book reviews, some of them collected in the volume ‘Notes of a Native Son’. Baldwin was regularly published in the magazine, ‘The Nation’.

At the age of 24, he left the US for Paris and, while frequently returning for periods to the United States, he would remain in France for the rest of his life, dying in 1987.

In 1963, Time Magazine stated, “There is not another writer who expresses with such poignancy and abrasiveness the dark realities of the racial ferment in North and South.” Baldwin proceeded to meet more than once with then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to advocate a stronger focus and a speeding up of the progress on civil rights. In 1968, Baldwin signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.

His activism brought him to the attention of the FBI, which amassed a file on Baldwin that ran to 1,884 pages. In 2016, a documentary feature inspired by Baldwin’s writings and titled, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’, was released. The trailer for the film appears below…