However, there is a lot to be said about the gay Black author. He wrote about topics that were exotic to a 1950s and '60s audience. He explored heterosexual relationships between people who were of different racial backgrounds and sexual identities. He considered whether these relationships could survive in a Jim Crow culture where segregation and discrimination was the way of the land, where homosexuality was only whispered about in smoke-filled cocktail party room of predominantly comprised of the Beat crowd and university thinkers. But that, in and of itself, was a distinction because few Black writers were able to rise to having the status of having their works and theories form the basis of serious discourse.
He dared to speak of the rejection of the Black native son and portray his position in a society that allowed travel on one of two paths while ignoring all the others. And, like Richard Wright, Baldwin attempted to explain the psychology of existence and moral standards of one racial group compared with another.
Perhaps Baldwin's friendship with archaeologist Margaret Mead explains some of his essays and the depths into which he went with his analyses of his subjects and the critical acclaim he gained because of his willingness to explore these topics with the reading world. When we compare some of the titles of his works to those of Richard Wright, the critical-thinking reader will ponder to what extent Wright influenced Baldwin's voice.
And here we are, more than a half century since he emerged in the literary world, now daring to include black characters on both the large and small screen who go about their lives in all walks of life, without restraints, because the diversity and inclusion conversation was doing little toward moving us forward in the realm of diversity and acceptance in reality.
Perhaps this birthday will be the one where the resurgence in interest will be the one that also encourages the lowering of the barriers to outright acceptance and nurtures consideration and inclusion based on actual ability without regard to genetics.
- Margaret Mead and James Baldwin on Identity, Race, the Immigrant Experience, and Why the “Melting Pot” Is a Problematic Metaphor
- Brain Pickings
- “First Friend”
- 25 Powerful Quotes From James Baldwin To Feed Your Soul
- In memoriam | Remembering Sedat Pakay 1945 - 2016
- Catching Up to James Baldwin
- Trapped Inside James Baldwin
- Richard Wright, Biography.com: Poet, Author, Journalist (1908–1960)