'Go Tell it on the Mountain' is Published

Go Tell It on the Mountain is filled with biblical references that evoke the spirit of the black church and a realism that brings to life the Harlem of the 1930s, a northern ghetto whose inhabitants were still struggling with southern demons.

Baldwin, in a 1984 interview with the Paris Review, captured what he was trying to say in the novel about all of us and about his own life: "[Writing Go Tell It on the Mountain] was an attempt to exorcise something, to find out what happened to my father, what happened to all of us, what had happened to me and how we were to move from one place to another." Its brilliant style and sophisticated portrait of a young man struggling with complex issues made this one of the landmark novels of the postwar period.

Fourteen-year-old John is the hero of Go Tell It on the Mountain, a first novel by a 28-year-old Negro who sometimes writes with the powerful rocking rhythms of a storefront-church meeting. Author James Baldwin's own father was a Harlem clergyman, and the church scenes in go Tell It are as compelling as anything that has turned up in a U.S. novel this year. Watch Preacher Elisha: "At one moment, head thrown back, eyes closed, sweat standing on his brow, he sat at the piano, singing and playing; and then, like a great black cat in trouble in the jungle, he stiffened and trembled, and cried out. Jesus, Jesus, oh Lord Jesus! He struck on the piano one last, wild note and threw up his hands, palms upward, stretched wide apart. The tambourines raced to fill the vacuum left by his silent piano, and his cry drew answering cries. Then he was on his feet, turning, blind, his face congested, contorted with this rage, and the muscles leaping and swelling in his long, dark neck . . . and he began to dance."