James Arthur Baldwin, aka Jimmy (as everyone called him), was an American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, and activist throughout the course of the 20th century. Born and raised in Harlem, New York, Baldwin streamlined onto the writing scene in 1955 with a collection of essays entitled Notes of a Native Son, which explored the intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions during that time period in the United States. Baldwin’s short stories, novels, and plays brilliantly fictionalize the fundamental personal questions and dilemmas he faced during his life, all amidst complex social and psychological pressures along with racial disparity, sexual identity, masculinity, and status. His works, of course, run rampantly parallel with some of the major political movements toward social change in mid-twentieth century America, such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Liberation Movement. And let me tell you, Jimmy was a fucking unbelievably brilliant speaker, both eloquent and forthright, honest and uncompromising, a man who knew what he stood for and would not concede his beliefs, no matter how disparaging the journey became. Not to mention he had back up, a jaw-dropping list of comrades and friends including Marlon Brando, Charles Heston, Jean Genet, Rip Torn, Alex Haley, Miles Davis, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Josephine Baker, Allen Ginsberg, Chinua Achebe, Maya Angelou, and so many more. For the last two weeks I have watched James Baldwin’s speeches, read his works, and truly found myself in awe of a man I previously glossed over at university and now, wish I hadn’t. Without drabbling on any longer, let’s just get to it, shall we, and discuss the life, the message, and the legacy that was James Arthur Baldwin.
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I am a student of language and literature. I have been reading, writing, and studying for most of my life. I received a B.A. in English from Fresno State and then went on to receive an M.A. and Ph.D. in English at Indiana University. I am interested in literature, philosophy, his...