Baldwin in 1969
August 2, 1924|
Harlem, New York, U.S.
December 1, 1987
Saint-Paul de Vence, France
|Occupation||Writer, novelist, poet, playwright, activist|
|Alma mater||DeWitt Clinton High School|
James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) was an African American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. His essays, as collected in Notes of a Native Son (1955), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century America, and their inevitable if unnameable tensions. Some Baldwin essays are book-length, for instance The Fire Next Time (1963), No Name in the Street (1972), and The Devil Finds Work (1976).
Baldwin's novels and plays fictionalize fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures thwarting the equitable integration of not only blacks, but also of gay and bisexual men, while depicting some internalized obstacles to such individuals' quests for acceptance. Such dynamics are prominent in Baldwin's second novel, written well before gay equality was widely espoused in America: Giovanni's Room (1956). Baldwin's first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, is said to be his best-known work.
Early life 1
- Schooling 1.1
- Religion 1.2
- Greenwich Village 1.3
- Expatriation 2
- Saint-Paul de Vence 3
- Literary career 4
- Social and political activism 5
- Inspiration and relationships 6
- Death 7
- Legacy 8
- Works 9
- See also 10
- References 11
- Published as 12
Further reading 13
- Archival resources 13.1
- External links 14
When Baldwin was an infant, his mother, Emma Berdis Jones, divorced his father amid his drug abuse and moved to the Harlem section of Manhattan in New York City. There, she married a preacher, David Baldwin. The family was very poor.
James spent much time caring for his several younger brothers and sisters. At the age of ten, he was beaten by a gang of police officers. His adoptive father, whom James in essays called simply his father, appears to have treated James—versus James's siblings—with singular harshness.
His stepfather died of tuberculosis in summer of 1943 soon before James turned 19. The day of the funeral was James's 19th birthday, the day his father's last child was born, and the day of the Harlem Riot of 1943, which was the portrait opening his essay "Notes of a Native Son". The quest to answer or explain familial and social repudiation—and attain a sense of self, both coherent and benevolent—became a motif in Baldwin's writing.
James attended P.S. 24 on 128th Street between Fifth and Madison in Harlem where he wrote the school song, which was used until the school closed down. His middle school years were spent at Frederick Douglass Junior High where he was influenced by poet Countee Cullen, a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance, and was encouraged by his math teacher to serve as editor of the school newspaper, The Douglass Pilot. He then went on to DeWitt Clinton High School, in the Bronx's Bedford Park section. There, along with Richard Avedon, he worked on the school magazine—Baldwin as its literary editor—but disliked school because of racial remarks.
The difficulties of his life, as well as his abusive preacher stepfather, led Baldwin to become a part of the church. At age 14 he attended meetings of the Pentecostal Church and, during a euphoric prayer meeting, he converted. Soon, as a junior minister at the Fireside Pentecostal Assembly, he drew larger crowds than his stepfather did. At 17, however, Baldwin came to view Christianity as falsely premised and later regarded his time in the pulpit as a remedy to his personal crises.
Baldwin once visited Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam, who inquired about Baldwin's religious beliefs. He answered, "I left the church 20 years ago and haven't joined anything since." Elijah asked, "And what are you now?" Baldwin explained, "I? Now? Nothing. I'm a writer. I like doing things alone." Still, his church experience significantly shaped his worldview and writing. Baldwin reflected that "being in the pulpit was like being in the theatre; I was behind the scenes and knew how the illusion was worked."
Baldwin admonished Christianity for, as he explained, reinforcing the system of American slavery by palliating the pangs of oppression and delaying salvation until a promised afterlife. Baldwin praised religion, however, for inspiring some American blacks to defy oppression. Baldwin once wrote, "If the concept of God has any use, it is to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God can't do that, it's time we got rid of him". Baldwin publicly expressed himself as not religious. At his funeral, a mostly a cappella recording of the adult Baldwin singing "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" was played.
When Baldwin was 15, his high-school running buddy, Emile Capouya, skipped school one day and, in Greenwich Village, met Beauford Delaney, a painter. Emile gave James the address, and suggested a visit. James, who worked at a sweatshop nearby on Canal Street and dreaded going home after school, visited Beauford at 181 Greene Street. He became a mentor to Baldwin, and Beauford's influence brought him to his first realization that a black person could be an artist.
While working odd jobs, he wrote short stories, essays, and book reviews, some of them collected in the volume Notes of a Native Son (1955). He befriended the actor Marlon Brando in 1944 and the two were roommates for a time. They would remain friends for more than 20 years.
During his teenage years in Harlem and Greenwich Village, Baldwin started to realize that he was gay. In 1948, Baldwin walked into a restaurant where he knew he could not be served. When the waitress explained that black people were not served at the establishment, James Baldwin threw a glass of water at her, shattering the mirror behind the bar. As a result of being disillusioned by American prejudice against blacks and gays, Baldwin left the United States at the age of 24 and settled in Paris, France. His flight was not just a desire to distance himself from American prejudice, but to see himself and his writing beyond an African-American context. Baldwin did not want to be read as "merely a Negro; or, even, merely a Negro writer". Also, he left the United States desiring to come to terms with his sexual ambivalence and flee the hopelessness that many young African-American men like himself succumbed to in New York.
In Paris, Baldwin was soon involved in the cultural radicalism of the Left Bank. His work started to be published in literary anthologies, notably Zero, which was edited by his friend Themistocles Hoetis and which had already published essays by Richard Wright.
He would live in France for most of his later life. He would also spend some time in Switzerland and Turkey. During his life and after it, Baldwin would be seen not only as an influential African-American writer but also as an influential exile writer, particularly because of his numerous experiences outside the United States and the impact of these experiences on Baldwin's life and his writing.
Saint-Paul de Vence
Baldwin settled in Saint-Paul de Vence (South of France) in 1970, in an old Provence house beneath the ramparts of the famous village. His house was always open to his friends, who frequently visited him while on trips to the French Riviera. American painter Beauford Delaney made Baldwin's house in Saint-Paul de Vence his second home, often setting up his easel in the garden. Delaney painted several colourful portraits of Baldwin. Actors Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier were also regular house guests.Many of Baldwin's musician friends dropped in during the Nice and Juan-les-Pins jazz festivals: Nina Simone, Josephine Baker (whose sister lived in Nice), Miles Davis, and Ray Charles, for whom he composed several pieces of music. In his biography, musician Miles Davis wrote:
I'd read his books and I liked and respected what he had to say. When I got to know him better, Jimmy and I opened up to each other. We became great friends. Every time I was in the South of France, in Antibes, I would spend a day or two at his villa in Saint-Paul de Vence. We'd get comfy in that beautiful, big house and he would tell us all sorts of stories.... He was a great man.Baldwin spoke French fluently and developed friendships with French actor Yves Montand and French writer Marguerite Yourcenar, who translated Baldwin's play The Amen Corner.
His years in Saint-Paul de Vence were also years of work. Sitting in front of his sturdy typewriter, his days were devoted to writing and to answering the huge amount of mail he received from all over the world. He wrote several of his last works in his house in Saint Paul de Vence, including Just Above My Head in 1979 and Evidence of Things Not Seen in 1985. It was also in his Saint-Paul de Vence house that Baldwin wrote his famous "Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Y. Davis" in November 1970.
In 1953, Baldwin's first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, a semi-autobiographical bildungsroman, was published. His first collection of essays, Notes of a Native Son appeared two years later. He continued to experiment with literary forms throughout his career, publishing poetry and plays as well as the fiction and essays for which he was known.
Baldwin's second novel, Giovanni's Room, stirred controversy when it was first published in 1956 due to its explicit homoerotic content. Baldwin was again resisting labels with the publication of this work: despite the reading public's expectations that he would publish works dealing with the African-American experience, Giovanni's Room is predominantly about white characters. Baldwin's next two novels, Another Country and Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone, are sprawling, experimental works dealing with black and white characters and with heterosexual, gay, and bisexual characters. These novels struggle to contain the turbulence of the 1960s: they are saturated with a sense of violent unrest and outrage.
Baldwin's lengthy essay "Down at the Cross" (frequently called The Fire Next Time after the title of the book in which it was published) similarly showed the seething discontent of the 1960s in novel form. The essay was originally published in two oversized issues of The New Yorker and landed Baldwin on the cover of Time magazine in 1963 while Baldwin was touring the South speaking about the restive Civil Rights movement. Around the time of publication of The Fire Next Time, Baldwin became a known spokesperson for civil rights and a celebrity noted for championing the cause of black Americans. He frequently appeared on television and delivered speeches on college campuses. The essay talked about the uneasy relationship between Christianity and the burgeoning Black Muslim movement. After publication, several black nationalists criticized Baldwin for his conciliatory attitude. They questioned whether his message of love and understanding would do much to change race relations in America. The book was eagerly consumed by whites looking for answers to the question: What do blacks really want? Baldwin's essays never stopped articulating the anger and frustration felt by real-life black Americans with more clarity and style than any other writer of his generation. Baldwin's next book-length essay, No Name in the Street, also discussed his own experience in the context of the later 1960s, specifically the assassinations of three of his personal friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Baldwin's writings of the 1970s and 1980s have been largely overlooked by critics, though even these texts are beginning to receive attention. Several of his essays and interviews of the 1980s discuss homosexuality and homophobia with fervor and forthrightness. Eldridge Cleaver's harsh criticism of Baldwin in Soul on Ice and elsewhere and Baldwin's return to southern France contributed to the sense that he was not in touch with his readership. Always true to his own convictions rather than to the tastes of others, Baldwin continued to write what he wanted to write. As he had been the leading literary voice of the civil rights movement, he became an inspirational figure for the emerging gay rights movement. His two novels written in the 1970s, If Beale Street Could Talk and Just Above My Head, placed a strong emphasis on the importance of black families, and he concluded his career by publishing a volume of poetry, Jimmy's Blues, as well as another book-length essay, The Evidence of Things Not Seen, which was an extended meditation inspired by the Atlanta Child Murders of the early 1980s.
Social and political activism
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Baldwin returned to the United States in the summer of 1957 while the Civil Rights Act of that year was being debated in Congress. He had been powerfully moved by the image of a young girl braving a mob in an attempt to desegregate schools in Charlotte, N.C., and Partisan Review editor Philip Rahv had suggested he report on what was happening in the American south. Baldwin was nervous about the trip but he made it, interviewing people in Charlotte (where he met Martin Luther King), and Montgomery, Alabama. The result was two essays, one published in Harper's magazine ("The Hard Kind of Courage"), the other in Partisan Review ("Nobody Knows My Name"). Subsequent Baldwin articles on the movement appeared in Mademoiselle, Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker, where in 1962 he published the essay that he called "Down at the Cross" and the New Yorker called "Letter from a Region of My Mind". Along with a shorter essay from The Progressive, the essay became The Fire Next Time.
While he wrote about the movement, Baldwin aligned himself with the ideals of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1963 he conducted a lecture tour of the South for CORE, traveling to locations like Durham and Greensboro, North Carolina and New Orleans, Louisiana. During the tour, he lectured to students, white liberals, and anyone else listening about his racial ideology, an ideological position between the "muscular approach" of Malcolm X and the nonviolent program of Martin Luther King Jr.. Baldwin expressed the hope that Socialism would take root in the United States.
By the spring of 1963, Baldwin had become so much a spokesman for the Civil Rights Movement that for its May 17 issue on the turmoil in Birmingham, Alabama, Time magazine put James Baldwin on the cover. "There is not another writer," said Time, "who expresses with such poignancy and abrasiveness the dark realities of the racial ferment in North and South." In a cable Baldwin sent to Attorney General Robert Kennedy during the crisis, Baldwin blamed the violence in Birmingham on the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, Mississippi Senator James O. Eastland, and President Kennedy for failing to use "the great prestige of his office as the moral forum which it can be." Attorney General Kennedy invited Baldwin to meet with him over breakfast, and that meeting was followed up with a second, when Kennedy met with Baldwin and others Baldwin had invited to Kennedy's Manhattan apartment (see
- Works by James Baldwin at Open Library
- Works by or about James Baldwin in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- James Baldwin at the Internet Movie Database
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Altman, Elias. "Watered Whiskey: James Baldwin's Uncollected Writings" April 13, 2011. The Nation.
- Gwin, Minrose. "Southernspaces.org" March 11, 2008. Southern Spaces
- James Baldwin talks about race, political struggle and the human condition at the Wheeler Hall, Berkeley, CA, in 1974
- James Baldwin Photographs and Papers Selected manuscripts, correspondence, and photographic portraits from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University
- Comprehensive Resource of James Baldwin Information at the Wayback Machine (archived April 20, 2008)
- James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket, distributed by California Newsreel
- pageAmerican MastersBaldwin's
- James Baldwin at C-SPAN's American Writers: A Journey Through History
- Baldwin in the Literary Encyclopedia
- Audio files of speeches and interviews at UC Berkeley
- See Baldwin's 1963 film Take This Hammer, made with Richard O. Moore, about Blacks in San Francisco in the late 1950s.
- Video: Baldwin debate with William F. Buckley (via UC Berkeley Media Resources Center)
- Discussion with Afro-American Studies Dept. at UC Berkeley on YouTube
- Guardian Books "Author Page", with profile and links to further articles
- The James Baldwin Collective in Paris, France
- Transcript of interview with Dr. Kenneth Clark
- James Baldwin at Find a Grave
- James Baldwin early manuscripts and papers, 1941–1945 (2.7 linear feet) are housed at Yale University Beinecke Library
- James Baldwin letters and manuscripts, ca. 1950–86 (0.2 linear feet) are housed at the New York Public Library
- Early Novels & Stories: Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni's Room, Another Country, Going to Meet the Man (Toni Morrison, ed.) (Library of America, 1998) ISBN 978-1-883011-51-2.
- Collected Essays: Notes of a Native Son, Nobody Knows My Name, The Fire Next Time, No Name in the Street, The Devil Finds Work, Other Essays (Toni Morrison, ed.) (Library of America, 1998) ISBN 978-1-883011-52-9
- Public Broadcasting Service. "James Baldwin: About the author". American Masters. November 29, 2006.
- p. 158, pp. 148–200.
- Baldwin J, Notes of a Native Son.
- "Artist Bios: James baldwin", Goodman Theatre.
- Bobby Allyn, "DeWitt Clinton's remarkable alumni", City Room blog, The New York Times, July 21, 2009.
- Staff. "Richard Avedon", The Daily Telegraph, October 2, 2004 (accessed September 14, 2009). "He also edited the school magazine at DeWitt Clinton High, on which the black American writer James' Baldwin was literary editor."
- James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (New York: Dial Press, 1963 / Vintage Books, 1993), p. 37.
- Kimberly Winston, "Blacks say atheists were unseen civil rights heroes", USA Today, February 23, 2012.
- Will Poole. "Malcolm X - Debate with James Baldwin - September 5, 1963".
- Herb Boyd, Baldwin's Harlem: A Biography of James Baldwin (New York: Atria Books, 2008), p. 178.
- Baldwin, James. The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948–1985 (New York: St Martin's Press, 1985), p. ix.
- James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket. Dir. Karen Thorsen. American Masters, 1989.
- James Baldwin, "The Discovery of What it Means to be an American," in The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948–1985 (New York: St. Martin's Marek, 1985), 171.
- James Baldwin, "Fifth Avenue, Uptown" in The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948–1985 (New York: St. Martin's/Marek, 1985), 206.
- "James Baldwin" at the Wayback Machine (archived May 14, 2008), MSN Encarta. Archived 2009-10-31.
- Douglas Field, "Freelance", The Times Literary Supplement, July 30, 2014.
- Alain Roullier, "Le gardien des âmes", 1998.
- Collectif James Baldwin.
- James Baldwin. "An Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Y. Davis", November 19, 1970. History is a Weapon.
- Field, Douglas. "Passing as a Cold War novel: anxiety and assimilation in James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room". In Douglas Field (ed.), American Cold War Culture, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005.
- p. 51.
- Palmer, Colin A. "Baldwin, James." Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History. 2nd edn. 2005. Print.
- Page, Clarence. "James Baldwin: Bearing Witness To The Truth." Chicago News Tribune, December 16, 1987, sec. Gospel: n. p. Print.
- Palmer, Colin A. "Baldwin, James." Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History, 2nd edn, 2005. Print.
- Cleaver, Eldridge, Notes On a Native Son, Ramparts, June 1966, pp. 51–57.
- Carol Polsgrove, Divided Minds: Intellectuals and the Civil Rights Movement (2001), pp. 94–99, 155–156.
- David Leeming, James Baldwin: A Biography (New York: Henry Holt, 1994), 134.
- Fred L. Standley, Louis H. Pratt (eds), Conversations with James Baldwin, p. 131. September 1972, Walker: "Most newly independent countries in the world are moving in a socialist direction. Do you think socialism will ever come to the U.S.A.? Baldwin: I would think so. I don't see any other way for it to go. But then you have to be very careful what you mean by socialism. When I use the word I'm not thinking about Lenin for example.... Bobby Seale talks about a Yankee Doodle-type socialism.... So that a socialism achieved in America, if and when we do... will be a socialism very unlike the Chinese socialism or the Cuban socialism. Walker: What unique form do you envision socialism in the U.S.A. taking? Baldwin: I don't know, but the price of any real socialism here is the eradication of what we call the race problem.... Racism is crucial to the system to keep Black[s] and whites at a division so both were and are a source of cheap labor."
- Carol Polsgrove, Divided Minds, p. 175.
- James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire.
- Carol Polsgrove, "Divided Minds," pp. 176–180.
- David Leeming, James Baldwin: A Biography.
- Anderson, Gary L., and Kathryn G. Herr. "Baldwin, James (1924–1987)." Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice. ed. 2007. Print.
- Carol Polsgrove, Divided Minds, p. 191, 195–198.
- Carol Polsgrove, Divided Minds, p. 236.
- "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest", January 30, 1968, New York Post.
- Michelle M. Wright, "'Alas, Poor Richard!': Transatlantic Baldwin, The Politics of Forgetting, and the Project of Modernity", Dwight A. McBride (ed.), James Baldwin Now, New York University Press, 1999, p. 208.
- James Baldwin Debates William F. Buckley (1965) on YouTube
- Winston Wilde, Legacies of Love, p. 93.
- James Baldwin Biography, accessed December 2, 2010.
- "James Baldwin: His Voice Remembered", The New York Times, December 20, 1987.
- James Baldwin, the Writer, Dies in France at 63, The New York Times, December 1, 1987.
- W. J. Weatherby, James Baldwin: Artist on Fire, pp. 367–372.
- Lee A. Daniels, "James Baldwin, Eloquent Writer In Behalf of Civil Rights, Is Dead", The New York Times, December 2, 1987.
- Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.
- A Lover's Question (CD, Les Disques Du Crépuscule – TWI 928-2, 1990)
Music/Spoken Word Recording:
- Nothing Personal (with Richard Avedon, photography) (1964)
- A Rap on Race (with Margaret Mead) (1971)
- One Day When I Was Lost (orig.: A. Haley; 1972)
- A Dialogue (with Nikki Giovanni) (1973)
- Little Man Little Man: A Story of Childhood (with Yoran Cazac, 1976)
- Native Sons (with Sol Stein, 2004)
Together with others:
- Go Tell It on the Mountain (semi-autobiographical novel; 1953)
- The Amen Corner (play; 1954)
- Notes of a Native Son (essays; 1955)
- Giovanni's Room (novel; 1956)
- Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son (essays; 1961)
- Another Country (novel; 1962)
- A Talk to Teachers (essay; 1963)
- The Fire Next Time (essays; 1963)
- Blues for Mister Charlie (play; 1964)
- Going to Meet the Man (stories; 1965)
- Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone (novel; 1968)
- No Name in the Street (essays; 1972)
- If Beale Street Could Talk (novel; 1974)
- The Devil Finds Work (essays; 1976)
- Just Above My Head (novel; 1979)
- Jimmy's Blues (poems; 1983)
- The Evidence of Things Not Seen (essays; 1985)
- The Price of the Ticket (essays; 1985)
- The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings (essays; 2010)
- Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems (poems; 2014)
In 2005, the USPS created a first-class postage stamp dedicated to Baldwin, which featured him on the front, with a short biography on the back of the peeling paper.
In 1987, Kevin Brown, a photo-journalist from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, established the James Baldwin Scholars program, an urban outreach initiative, in honor of Baldwin, who taught at Hampshire in the early 1980s. The JBS Program provides talented students of color from underserved communities an opportunity to develop and improve the skills necessary for college success through coursework and tutorial support for one transitional year, after which Baldwin scholars may apply for full matriculation to Hampshire or any other four-year college program.
In 1986, within the work The Story of English, Robert MacNeil, with Robert McCrum and William Cran, mentioned James Baldwin as an influential writer of African-American Literature, on the level of Booker T. Washington, and held both men up as prime examples of Black writers.
One of Baldwin's richest short stories, "Sonny's Blues", appears in many anthologies of short fiction used in introductory college literature classes.
Baldwin's influence on other writers has been profound: edited the Library of America two-volume editions of Baldwin's fiction and essays, and a recent collection of critical essays links these two writers.
Early on December 1, 1987, (some sources say late on November 30) Baldwin died from esophageal cancer in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France. He was buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, near New York City.
You knew, didn't you, how I needed your language and the mind that formed it? How I relied on your fierce courage to tame wildernesses for me? How strengthened I was by the certainty that came from knowing you would never hurt me? You knew, didn't you, how I loved your love? You knew. This then is no calamity. No. This is jubilee. 'Our crown,' you said, 'has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do,' you said, 'is wear it.'. In the eulogy, entitled "Life in His Language," Morrison credits Baldwin as being her literary inspiration and the person who showed her the true potential of writing. She writes, The New York Times. Upon his death, Morrison wrote a eulogy for Baldwin that appeared in Toni MorrisonBaldwin was also a close friend of Nobel Prize-winning novelist
Maya Angelou called Baldwin her "friend and brother", and credited him for "setting the stage" for her 1969 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Baldwin was made a Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur by the French government in 1986.
Baldwin influenced the work of French painter Philippe Derome, who he met in Paris in the early 1960s. Baldwin also knew Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, Billy Dee Williams, Huey P. Newton, Nikki Giovanni, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Genet (with whom he campaigned on behalf of the Black Panther Party), Lee Strasberg, Elia Kazan, Rip Torn, Alex Haley, Miles Davis, Amiri Baraka, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothea Tanning , Leonor Fini, Margaret Mead, Josephine Baker, Allen Ginsberg, Chinua Achebe and Maya Angelou. He wrote at length about his "political relationship" with Malcolm X. He collaborated with childhood friend Richard Avedon on the book Nothing Personal, which is available for public viewing at the Schomburg Center in Harlem.
Baldwin was a close friend of the singer, pianist, and civil rights activist Nina Simone. With Langston Hughes and Lorraine Hansberry, Baldwin helped awaken Simone to the civil rights movement then gelling. Baldwin also provided her with literary references influential on her later work. Baldwin and Hansberry met with Robert F. Kennedy, along with Kenneth Clark and Lena Horne and others (see Baldwin–Kennedy meeting) in an attempt to persuade Kennedy of the importance of civil rights legislation.
In 1949 Baldwin met and fell in love with Lucien Happersberger, aged 17, though Happersberger's marriage three years later left Baldwin distraught. Happersberger died on August 21, 2010, in Switzerland.
Later support came from Richard Wright, whom Baldwin called "the greatest black writer in the world." Wright and Baldwin became friends, and Wright helped Baldwin secure the Eugene F. Saxon Memorial Award. Baldwin's essay "Notes of a Native Son" and his collection Notes of a Native Son allude to Wright's novel Native Son. In Baldwin's 1949 essay "Everybody's Protest Novel", however, he indicated that Native Son, like Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, lacked credible characters and psychological complexity, and the friendship between the two authors ended. Interviewed by Julius Lester, however, Baldwin explained, "I knew Richard and I loved him. I was not attacking him; I was trying to clarify something for myself." In 1965, Baldwin participated in a debate with William F. Buckley, on the topic of whether the American dream has adversely affected African Americans. The debate took place at The Cambridge Union in the UK. The spectating student body voted overwhelmingly in Baldwin's favour.
...the first living proof, for me, that a black man could be an artist. In a warmer time, a less blasphemous place, he would have been recognized as my teacher and I as his pupil. He became, for me, an example of courage and integrity, humility and passion. An absolute integrity: I saw him shaken many times and I lived to see him broken but I never saw him bow.(1985), Baldwin describes Delaney as The Price of the Ticket. In Beauford DelaneyA great influence on Baldwin was the painter
As a young man, Baldwin's poetry teacher was Countee Cullen.
Inspiration and relationships
In 1968, Baldwin signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.
Nonetheless, he rejected the label civil rights activist, or that he had participated in a civil rights movement, instead agreeing with Malcolm X's assertion that if one is a citizen, one should not have to fight for one's civil rights. In a 1964 interview with Robert Penn Warren for the book Who Speaks for the Negro?, Baldwin refuted the idea that the civil rights movement was an outright revolution, instead calling it "a very peculiar revolution because it has to...have its aims the establishment of a union, and a...radical shift in the American mores, the American way of life...not only as it applies to the Negro obviously, but as it applies to every citizen of the country." In a 1979 speech at UC Berkeley, he called it, instead, "the latest slave rebellion."
Baldwin also made a prominent appearance at the New York Post reporter the federal government could protect Negroes—it could send federal troops into the South. He blamed the Kennedys for not acting. In March 1965, Baldwin joined marchers who walked 50 miles from Selma, Alabama, to the capitol in Montgomery under the protection of federal troops.
James Baldwin’s FBI file contains 1,884 pages of documents, collected from 1960 until the early 1970s. During that era of illegal surveillance of American writers, the FBI accumulated 276 pages on Richard Wright, 110 pages on Truman Capote, and just nine pages on Henry Miller. Baldwin’s file was closer in size to activists and radicals of the day — for example, it’s nearly half as thick as Malcolm X’s.
 Although most of the attendees of this meeting left feeling "devastated," the meeting was an important one in voicing the concerns of the civil rights movement and it provided exposure of the civil rights issue not just as a political issue but also as a moral issue.