James Baldwin Is Born

Novelist, essayist, and playwright James Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924, in New York City.

The eldest of nine children, Baldwin grew up in poverty-stricken Harlem, where his stepfather was a preacher. Between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, Baldwin himself preached at a small revivalist church, the Fireside Pentecostal. His first and most critically acclaimed novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), was inspired by his experiences there.

Baldwin was heavily influenced by his Harlem middle school-French teacher, famed poet Countee Cullen. Cullen, who obtained his master's degree from Harvard University, was a leader of the Harlem Renaissance (also known as the New Negro Movement), a flourishing of artistic expression that emerged from the community of Harlem in New York City in the 1920s. Cullen devoted himself to the education of children in the last period of his life, and concentrated on teaching and writing children's books. He opened up a new world of literary and artistic possibilities for black youth in Harlem, including James Baldwin.

James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – November 30, 1987) was an American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist.

Most of Baldwin's work deals with racial and sexual issues in the mid-20th century in the United States. His novels are notable for the personal way in which they explore questions of identity as well as the way in which they mine complex social and psychological pressures related to being black and homosexual well before the social, cultural or political equality of these groups was improved.

The conundrum of color is the inheritance of every American… ”

— James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son, 1955