Essays on James Baldwin

Essays on James Baldwin

James Baldwin was born in Harlem in the year 1924. As the oldest out of nine children, his family struggled to stay atop of their financial situation. Since he had trouble developing a proper relationship with his stepfather, he tried to “escape” his harsh reality by taking up a passion for writing when he was 14 years old.

His early career was being a preacher, which inspired him to be a writer later. He was quoted “Those three years in the pulpit – I didn’t realize it then – that is what turned me into a writer, really, dealing with all that anguish and that despair and that beauty.” Some have noted that the tone of Baldwin’s work is close to that of the Holy Bible.

Later, he worked at a railroad and then became a freelance writer. He wrote the novel Go Tell It on the Mountain which was about the hardship of living in Harlem. This novel was soon to be considered an American classic. He continued his writing career, having Giovanni’s Room in 1956, as well as Another Country in 1962. These novels became bestsellers soon enough.

During the Harlem Renaissance, it was believed that Martin Luther King was an “integrationist”, or one who believes to resolve segregation issues in a non-violent demeanor. Malcolm X, on the other hand, was a separationist and believed in fighting back. James Baldwin considered himself to be a mix of the two, both integrationist and separationist. However, he was an integrationist. After he returned from France to the United States, he participated in Martin Luther King’s protests and marches. Baldwin believed that both blacks and whites should live in harmony together, as human beings, and not separated.

This racial struggle started when southerners drove Africans to the north, which unfortunately backfired when the northerners didn’t bode well with the new additions to their populations. Unfortunately for the Africans, the good economy didn’t fix prejudice issues. White workers complained about how they were swarming the employment market, for the worse, as well as lowering wages. This caused them to become segregated into urban hovels and ended out less fortunate.

The Harlem Renaissance ended in the mid-1930s. The 1929 stock market crashed caused everyone to face a new problem, the Great Depression. In March of 1935, a Puerto Rican boy stole a pocket-knife, and was beaten to death by authorities. A riot formed, and rioters looted two hundred stores, and cost two million dollars in property damages. An investigation was later established by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and was led by Edward Frazier, and it was shown that the riot was caused by bitterness towards racial discrimination.

Authors and poets left a great effect on contemporary literature. James Baldwin was no exception. He passed away from stomach cancer in 1987, at 63 years of age. He was said to have given hope to help people face the world. He was given 10 awards from 1945 to 1986, his last one being “La Lйgion D’Honneur” or France’s highest honor. Several eulogies have been made about him, one by Juan Williams in the Washington Post: “The success of Baldwin’s effort as the witness is evidenced time and again by the people, black and white, gay and straight, famous and anonymous, whose humanity he unveiled in his writings. America and the literary world are far richer for his witness. The proof of a shared humanity across the divides of race, class and more is the testament that the preacher’s son, James Arthur Baldwin, has left us.”

Read More
We've found 16 essays on James Baldwin

Essay examples

Essay topics


Literary Analysis: Sonny’s Blues

In “Sonny’s Blues,” by James Baldwin, the two main characters, Sonny and the narrator, face many conflicts with each other. These conflicts all contribute and lead to the climax of the story, the scene in the narrator’s apartment. The first conflict between these two characters …

BluesJames Baldwin
Words 746
Pages 3
Literary Devices in Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

In Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin, Compare and Contrast is shown throughout the novel. Baldwin had shown that there are characters that have similar situations, but other who contrast among themselves. For example, Florence and Elizabeth are similar because of their …

James BaldwinLoveMacbethMarriage
Words 79
Pages 1
Dysfunctional Relationships Between Sonny’s Blues and Shiloh

Jeremy Raymond Professor Gazzara ENG 102-109 April 6th, 2013 It Takes Two To Tango What makes a relationship dysfunctional? Is it the changes one sees in another whether they be physical, emotional, or financial? Is it a change in their own personality that is now …

BluesJames BaldwinLiterature
Words 1136
Pages 5
Haven’t found the relevant content? Hire a subject expert to help you with
Essays on James Baldwin
$35.80 for a 2-page paper
Get custom paper
essays on topic icon
Comparison of Essays by James Baldwin and Eric Foner

The Identity American English What makes you an individual and an American? The idea of what qualifies a person as an American is very vague. Eric Foner, in his article “Who is an American? ” describes the idea of what qualifies a person as an …

CitizenshipJames Baldwin
Words 816
Pages 3
Identifing Personality by Language

Language is a very controversial topic. The way many people hear language and judge others based upon it differs from place to place. Personally, I completely agree with James Baldwin. In his defense, language is what the general population uses to stereotype, it leaves us …

James Baldwin
Words 353
Pages 2
check icon

Find extra essay topics on Essays on James Baldwin by our writers.

James Arthur Baldwin was an American writer and activist. As a writer, he garnered acclaim across various mediums, including essays, novels, plays, and poems.

DeWitt Clinton High School (1942), The New School

Frequently asked questions

Who is James Baldwin and why is he important?
James Baldwin was an American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, and social critic. His work explored the issues of race, sexuality, and identity in America during the mid-20th century. He is considered to be one of the most important writers of his generation.Baldwin was born in Harlem, New York, in 1924. He was the eldest of nine children. His father, David Baldwin, was a Baptist minister, and his mother, Emma Jones Baldwin, was a domestic worker. Baldwin's parents were both African American.Baldwin was a gifted student and graduated from high school at the age of 16. He then attended DeWitt Clinton High School, where he studied literature and writing. After graduation, he worked a series of odd jobs before moving to Greenwich Village in New York City in 1944.It was in Greenwich Village that Baldwin began to develop his writing style. He also became involved in the city's gay and lesbian scene. Baldwin's first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, was published in 1953. The novel was based on his own childhood experiences growing up in Harlem.Baldwin's second novel, Giovanni's Room, was published in 1956. The novel explored the issues of homosexuality and identity. It was met with mixed reviews, but is now considered to be one of Baldwin's most important works.Baldwin's third novel, Another Country, was published in 1962. The novel explored the themes of race, love, and death. It was a bestseller and is considered to be one of Baldwin's most important works.Baldwin's later works include the essays collections Notes of a Native Son (1955) and The Fire Next Time (1963), and the novels If Beale Street Could Talk (1974) and Just Above My Head (1979).Baldwin died of stomach cancer in 1987. He was 63 years old.
What is the main idea of James Baldwin?
The main idea of James Baldwin is that America is a nation that is built on racism and violence. He believes that the only way to change this is to confront the country's history and to have an honest conversation about race. He also advocates for love and understanding as a way to heal the divisions in America.
What is James Baldwin famous quotes?
If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don't see.""To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.""The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.""Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.""It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.""People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.""Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war

Save time and let our verified experts help you.

Hire writer