James Baldwin Influences

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LIT-201 03/17/14 James Baldwin James Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924. Baldwin wrote and published several notable novels and essays including his first, Go Tell It on the Mountain, which was an autobiographical novel, Notes of a Native Son, Sonny’s Blues, and Giovanni’s Room, all of which received a great deal of attention. His influence in America and in Europe was significant for two major reasons. First of all, he was one of the most powerful spokesmen on the problems of racism in America. Second, he was one of the first authors and certainly one of the first African-American writers to confront the issue of homosexuality in his writing. James Arthur Baldwin was an American essayist, novelist, playwright, poet, and social critic.…show more content…
Much of his writing focused on the problem of racism in the United States. Baldwin argues that racism is a psychological problem that white America has, and concludes that until white people can learn to love themselves the problem cannot be cured. “There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you (The Fire Next Time, 19).” As an African American, Baldwin was well equipped to unmask the illusions of white supremacy. Baldwin might sound a little harsh when he is talking about white people, but he did not hate white people even though their attitudes and actions infuriated him. “Instead, he developed an unsentimental compassion for whites so trapped by their fear that they are deeply alienated from their true selves (Jon, 3)”. What he did, in my opinion, was to understand white people to pin point where such hatred generated from. Early in his career, Baldwin had decided to explore the question of what makes white supremacy so persistent. “He came to see that the question of skin color is really the question of the self. Racism is the site of deeper struggles. A lethal mix of ignorance, guilt, greed, and fear underlie the biases that maintain white supremacy. Thus, Baldwin realized, nothing less than whites' souls are at stake: You see, there is no prospect of setting Negroes free, unless…show more content…
During his teenage years in Harlem, Baldwin started to realize that he was gay. In 1948, he left the United States because he was disillusioned by the prejudice in American towards blacks and gays, and settled in Paris, a city which was more tolerant. The fact that he was gay alienated many black leaders who did not want to confront a black author that was gay. Baldwin was one of the first author’s and certainly one of the first African American writers to deal openly with the issue of homosexuality in his writing. He published only a few books dealing directly about homosexuality. In Giovanni’s Room, published in 1956, Baldwin wrote about an American named David who looks back on his trouble experiences in France, the events in his life, his feelings and frustrations with relationships with other men, particularly an Italian bartender named Giovanni. Baldwin attempts to articulate the tragedy of social pressures that result in self-denial. Baldwin also wrote about a gay male named John’s journey to Jesus in Go Tell It on the Mountain published in 1952. “John's problem, of course, is that no "proper" church-sanctioned relationship could ever contain or fulfill his homoerotic needs. It is beyond his ken as a young black boy in 1930s Harlem to imagine that his "sinful" desire could ever do anything but bring him always farther away from God and his community (Catherine, 1).” Baldwin’s can relate to this

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