James Baldwin-Part 1 of 15 Black Authors
There are many reasons why everyone should know James Baldwin, but whenever I hear his name cut through the air and land on my ears, I think one thing…fighter. I could not help but wonder what the world would be like today if he were still in it. I must admit that as a visionary, I sometimes still see him, small-framed, but bright-eyed walking down the street or across the park. I want to wave to him, but I know that he is a figment of my imagination. Maybe it is the hope that still rises within me that creates his being from thin air. I don’t know. I don’t care. I see him, and I smile. I nod and understand that indeed there will be a Fire Next Time.
James Author Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924. Baldwin grew up very poor, but it did not halt his creativity. Being a writer opens your mind to great possibilities. Sometimes, to possibilities that the world simply isn’t ready for, and this was the case when it came to James Baldwin and how he felt about growing up and being a man of color in the United States of America. The essays that Baldwin writes in Notes of A Native Son give a broader perspective to the Civil Rights Movement and force those who have eyes but still cannot see to be more open and understanding to the oppression taking place in a country that prides its self on freedom.
James Baldwin would become an expatriate of the United States and take citizenship in France, where he would have the opportunity to better understand himself and accept his bisexuality. As if being black and a man and an American were not enough, he would also learn that there were many prejudices awaiting him concerning his sexual preferences. Baldwin grew up in the church and preached full sermons by the time he was twelve years old. Sometimes the church is your best and worst teacher. The teaching of the church says that we need to reach beyond the break and continue to hold on until the blessing arrives. Just Above My Head is where the break was for Baldwin when it came to both race relations and sexual prejudices in the United States.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for and The Evidence of Things Not Seen. Even in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Baldwin is not hesitant in reminding America about the issue of race in this country and in this instance as it relates to the Atlanta Child Murders and how they were or were not investigated.
How much should a man have to pay to be viewed as a man? How much should it cost to be allotted the free rights that are part of the Constitution of the United States? How expensive should it be viewed as a person instead of as property or as a political or public nuisance? The Price of The Ticket should be zero dollars and zero cents. Our dues have been paid for years to come from the works of our ancestors. Forty acres and a mule would never repay the African American community for the atrocities that have been done.
If just once that image that I see standing across from me in the park were to appear real and I could have a conversation with this great man and ask him three questions, they would probably go something like this:
“Mr. Baldwin, I am familiar with your work during the Civil Rights Movement, and I have read some of your opinions. I have even heard about a wire you sent to then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy regarding who you held accountable for the violence in the South. Those names included then-President John F. Kennedy, whom you felt could have used his office as “a moral forum.” Do you think that President Barack Obama has failed to do the same? What would you say or write to President Obama in this day and time in light of all of the things that are currently affecting the Nation?”
“Mr. Baldwin, you were adamant about not being labeled as a Civil Rights Activist because you felt that as Citizens of this great country, one should not have to fight for rights already promised to them. What are your thoughts on the new segregation, and what suggestions can you offer on how to overcome them?”
Mr. Baldwin, though you clearly needed no collaborators because you used the world as your stage and your friends as your microphone; why didn’t you ever write a play or a novel with the likes of Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes or Toni Morrison.”
James Baldwin died on December 1, 1987, of stomach cancer in his home in the South of France.
Thank you, James Baldwin, for your contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and the literary world; though you are gone, you will never, ever be forgotten.
References: James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket. (2009, October 27). Retrieved December 31, 2020, from https://youtu.be/4_hYraYI2J8