As America grapples with increased reports of violent intolerance, the literary works of James Baldwin seem almost prophetic. Baldwin, who died nearly three decades ago, analyzed the racial injustices African Americans struggled with, and his insights from another era still rings true today.
An exclusive new e-book, “Baldwin for Our Times: Writings from James Baldwin for an Age of Sorrow and Struggle,” ($2.99 Kindle Edition ebook; Penguin Random House Publisher Services) offers a collection of Baldwin’s writings that speaks urgently to the current era of racial injustice.
With an introduction by prominent Baldwin scholar Rich Blint, “Baldwin for Our Time” features essay selections from “Notes of a Native Son” and poetry from “Jimmy’s Blues” and has shed a renewed light on the author’s spirit of activism.
Born in Harlem in 1924, Baldwin grew up in poverty, the oldest of nine children, reads a provided biography. Unashamed of his own homosexuality, Baldwin resisted categorization, both as a gay novelist and as a Black writer, insisting that he was first and foremost an American writer. His major works include the semi-autobiographical “Go Tell it on the Mountain” (1953), his first book, essay collections “Notes of a Native Son” (1955) and “The Fire Next Time” (1963), the play “Blues for Mister Charlie” (1964), and novels “If Beale Street Could Talk” (1974), and “Another Country” (1962). His second novel, “Giovanni’s Room” (1956), stirred controversy when it was first published in 1956 due to its explicit homoerotic content. In 1948, disillusioned by American prejudice against Blacks and homosexuals, Baldwin left the United States and departed to Paris, France, where he would live as an expatriate for most of his later life.
In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, “Remember This House”. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends – Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only 30 completed pages of this manuscript. The upcoming documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro,” is based on that unfinished Baldwin manuscript.
Recently, Baldwin has been highlighted in Meshell Ndegeocello’s “Can I Get a Witness? The Gospel of James Baldwin,” a theatrical production based on the legendary book, “The Fire Next Time”. “He’s for all times,” said Ndegeocello to The Root. “For me, Baldwin is like a deity that has replaced my other deities, and his wisdom helps resolve my existential issues.”