Baldwin, James

Baldwin, James

Baldwin, James, 1924-87, American author, b. New York City. He spent an impoverished boyhood in Harlem, became a Pentecostal preacher at 14, and left the church three years later. He moved to Paris in 1947 and his first two novels, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), reflecting his experience as a young preacher, and Giovanni's Room (1956), which dealt with his homosexuality, as well as the intensely personal, racially charged essay collection Notes of a Native Son (1955), were written while he lived there. Baldwin returned to the United States in 1957 and participated in the civil-rights movement, later returning to France where he lived for the remainder of his life. Another Country (1962), a bitter novel about sexual relations and racial tension, received critical acclaim, as did the perceptive essays in what is probably his most celebrated book, The Fire Next Time (1963). His eloquence and unsparing honesty made Baldwin one of the most influential authors of his time. Other works include the play Blues for Mr. Charlie (1964); a volume of short stories, Going to Meet the Man (1964); and the novels If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), the story of a young black couple victimized by the judicial system, and Just above My Head (1979). Collections of essays include Nobody Knows My Name (1961), No Name in the Street (1972), and The Price of a Ticket (1985).

See biographies by W. J. Wetherby (1989), J. Campbell (1991), and D. Leeming (1994); interviews in James Baldwin: The Legacy (1989, ed. by Q. Troupe) and Conversations with James Baldwin (1989, ed. by F. L. Standley and L. H. Pratt); studies by L. H. Pratt (1985), H. A. Porter (1989), D. A. McBride, ed. (1999), D. Q. Miller (2000), L. O. Scott (2002), H. Bloom, ed. (2006), D. Field, ed. (2009), and M. J. Zaborowska (2009).

James Baldwin

(born Aug. 2, 1924, New York, N.Y., U.S.—died Dec. 1, 1987, Saint-Paul, France) U.S. essayist, novelist, and playwright. He grew up in poverty in the New York City district of Harlem and became a preacher while in his teens. After 1948 he lived alternately in France and the U.S. His semiautobiographical first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), regarded as his finest, was followed by the essay collections Notes of a Native Son (1955) and Nobody Knows My Name (1961); the novels Giovanni's Room (1956), a story of homosexual life, and Another Country (1962); the long polemical essay The Fire Next Time (1963), prophesying widespread racial violence; and the play Blues for Mister Charlie (produced 1964). His eloquence and passion on the subject of race made him for years perhaps the country's most prominent black writer.

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