James Baldwin biography

James Baldwin

Novelist, Author

1924 – 1987

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Who was James Baldwin?

James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. Baldwin's essays, as collected in Notes of a Native Son, explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century America, and their inevitable if unnameable tensions. Some Baldwin essays are book-length, for instance The Fire Next Time, No Name in the Street, and The Devil Finds Work.

Baldwin's novels and plays fictionalize fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures thwarting the equitable integration of not only blacks, but also of gay and bisexual men, while depicting some internalized obstacles to such individuals' quests for acceptance. Such dynamics are prominent in Baldwin's second novel, written well before gay equality was widely espoused in America: Giovanni's Room. Baldwin's best-known novel is his first, Go Tell It on the Mountain.

Famous Quotes:

  • It is a very rare man who does not victimize the helpless.
  • People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.
  • Americans, unhappily, have the most remarkable ability to alchemize all bitter truths into an innocuous but piquant confection and to transform their moral contradictions, or public discussion of such contradictions, into a proud decoration, such as are given for heroism on the battle field.
  • If the relationship of father to son could really be reduced to biology, the whole earth would blaze with the glory of fathers and sons.
  • No one is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart: for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.
  • The primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid: the state of being alone.
  • We take our shape, it is true, within and against that cage of reality bequeathed us at our birth; and yet is precisely through our dependence on this reality that we are most endlessly betrayed.
  • Pessimists are the people who have no hope for themselves or for others. Pessimists are also people who think the human race is beneath their notice, that they're better than other human beings.
  • Fires can't be made with dead embers, nor can enthusiasm be stirred by spiritless men. Enthusiasm in our daily work lightens effort and turns even labor into pleasant tasks.
  • We are all androgynous, not only because we are all born of a woman impregnated by the seed of a man but because each of us, helplessly and forever, contains the other -- male in female, female in male, white in black and black in white. We are a part of each other. Many of my countrymen appear to find this fact exceedingly inconvenient and even unfair, and so, very often, do I. But none of us can do anything about it.

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"James Baldwin." Biographies.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 19 Apr. 2021. <https://www.biographies.net/people/en/james_baldwin>.


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Born
Aug 2, 1924
Harlem
Also known as
  • James Arthur Baldwin
Parents
Ethnicity
  • African American
Nationality
  • United States of America
Profession
Education
  • DeWitt Clinton High School
  • The New School
Employment
  • Hampshire College
Lived in
  • Saint Paul de Vence
    ( - 1987/12/01)
Died
Dec 1, 1987
Saint Paul de Vence

Submitted
on July 23, 2013

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