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Author Profile: James Baldwin

Each month, we research our authors so that you can learn more about their background and how their stories came to life.



Where he comes from & where he is now: Baldwin was born in Harlem, New York.  He died in 1987 in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France.  At age 24, he moved to Paris, France to distance himself from American prejudice.  He lived in France for most of his later life.

Where he studied:  Baldwin attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bedford Park section of the Bronx.

You might know him from: Baldwin is one of the most renowned American novelists of the 20th century.  Some of his books include The Fire Next Time, Go Tell It on the Mountain,and Notes of a Native Son .  He penned many essays, short stories, and a few plays. Baldwin is hailed as being one of the most important exile writers in American history and for exploring the homosexual experience long before the gay liberation movement.

When’s he’s not writing: Baldwin returned to the US in the mid 50s and became involved in the Civil Rights Movement.  His writings on the situation in the country caused him to be recognized as a spokesman of the movement; he was even featured on the cover of the Time magazine issue about the turmoil in Birmingham, Alabama. But Baldwin refused to be labeled as a “civil rights activist,” stating that one should not have to fight for one’s rights in the first place.

Baldwin on writing: Regarding the freedom living in France gave him to pursue his craft: “Once you find yourself in another civilization, you’re forced to examine your own.” - Baldwin

There’s so much more to know: If you’re interested in learning more about Baldwin, this PBS article is a good place to start.