The Life Of James Baldwin Essay Research

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The Life Of James Baldwin Essay, Research Paper James Arthur Baldwin Life James Arthur Baldwin was born the first of nine children during 1924 in Harlem. His father, David, was a clergyman and a factory worker, and was the source of all of James Baldwin’s fears. Baldwin’s mother, Berdis, was a homemaker. Baldwin first started writing around age fourteen as a way of seeking the love which he was missing from his family life. During this time Baldwin attended Frederick Douglas Junior High School and DeWitt Clinton High School. During his school years, Baldwin won several awards for his writings. The joy that he felt from having others praise his work was overshadowed, however, by his father’s disapproval of his non-Christian-oriented writing. James Baldwin’s father was

a very religious Christian who forced the church on young James. For a few years (from ages fourteen through seventeen), Baldwin was even a preacher. It was the bittersweet beauty of the church which Baldwin said turned him into a writer. Those few years of lost herding opened James Baldwins’ eyes to the fact that he was in need of soul searching. Those years would not be in vain; the cadences of black religious rituals sound throughout his writings. Baldwin was also known to credit his years at the pulpit for morphing him into the writer he was to become. In 1942 James Baldwin was fed up with his father, fed up with the church, and (at that point) fed up with his life. The brassy, young Baldwin went into a restaurant, which he knew was designated for whites only, and demanded

that he be served. When the waitress informed him that they did not serve his “kind” in that restaurant Baldwin picked up a glass and hurled it at her with all his pent up spite for the world. (That was the last straw for James Baldwin, he knew that he needed to leave his home since childhood for new experiences, and did so that very same day.) With a high school diploma under his belt James Baldwin moved to New Jersey and began working as a railroad hand. After two years in New Jersey, Baldwin moved to Greenwich Village. There, he first met Richard Wright (an African-American author whose strong protests against racial prejudice made him one of his generation’s most important spokespersons) and began his first novel, In My Father’s House. It was not until four years

later that James Baldwin began to receive recognition, such as awards and fellowships, for his writings. It was at this time that Baldwin published his first essay, “The Harlem Ghetto”. He had become disgusted with race relations in the United States and so decided to move to France. The Harlem Ghetto’s echo, The Fire Next Time (1963) was another grueling and spiteful account of racism in the United States. Baldwin would end up making France his home for over ten years. James Baldwin’s time in France was very important for his writing career and his personal life. He would write all day and party all night. Baldwin had several relationships while in France. While many people in the United States frowned upon both homosexuality and interracial dating, Baldwin found social

freedom and privacy while in Europe. He also wrote three important works while in France. In 1953 he finished the partially autobiographical account of his youth, Go Tell It on the Mountain. He also won the Guggenheim Fellowship for his play, The Amen Corner (1954). During his seventh year in France, Baldwin won several fellowships for his novel, Giovanni’s Room (1955). Giovanni’s Room was a partially autobiographical story of his homosexuality. Giovanni’s Room told of a white American expatriate and his coming to terms with his homosexuality. Many found it interesting that Baldwin chose a white person to portray himself. It was in 1960 that Baldwin returned to the United States. Upon his return to the United States, Baldwin became very active in support of the civil rights