James Baldwin: Contribution as American Author

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      James Arthur Baldwin (1924-1987) was an African-American novelist, playwright and essayist. He was born in Harlem, New York as the son of a preacher. He the oldest of nine children born to a Harlem, New York family, was the foster son of a religious minister. He left home at the age of 17 eventually making the way to Paris. As a youth, Baldwin occasionally preached in the church. The first novel Go Tell It On the Mountain (1953), an autobiographical one, reflects on his relationship with his father which was fulfilled in later works showing him to be powerful enemy of racism. It is the story of a 14 year old youth who seeks self-knowledge and religious faith as he wrestles with issues of Christian conversion in a store front church. His next novel Giovanni’s Room (1956) is set in Paris where he lived, he returned to black America as setting. Another Country (1962), the third novel, takes place again in Harlem. Other fictions include Going to Meet the Man (1965), Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968), If Beale Street Talk (1974) Just Above My Head (1979). In this, he argued movingly for an end to separation between the races.

      His prolific essays appeared in Notes of a Native Son (1955). Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son (1961) The Fire Next Time (1963). The Devil Finds the Work (1976), The Evidence of the Things Not Seen: An Essay (1985), The Price of the Tick: Collected Non-Fiction 1948-1965 (1986). His essays are mostly ‘personal essays’ and are about racism, the role of a writer as artist, and literature. His plays are - Blues for Mr. Charlie (1964), The Amen Comer (1965), One Day When I was Lost (1972), and A Deed for the King of Spain. This experience helped shape the compelling, oral quality of Baldwin’s A Deed from the King of Spain (1974), Jimmy’s Blues (1986) is volume of poetry. His brilliant prose, most clearly seen in his excellent essays, such as “Letter from a Region Of My Mind,” from the collection James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison mirrors the African-American experience of the 1950s. Their characters suffer from a lack of identity, rather than from over-ambition.

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