American born writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin was born this day in 1924. He would have been 87 today. When people ask me how I, as a white girl raised in the south, started to think differently about race, I often point to the writing of James Baldwin. His writing, like that of a handful of others, had a profound, even life-changing impact on me. If you’re not familiar with him, this short (4:40) clip provides a brief introduction (h/t to Johnny Eric Williams):
Baldwin, like other notable African Americans such as W.E.B. DuBois, Richard Wright, and Josephine Baker, became expatriates from the U.S., so disgusted were they with the systemic racism here. Baldwin, like Wright and Baker, went to Paris (DuBois to Ghana).
If you’re not familiar with Baldwin’s work, do yourself a favor and find one of his books, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, or The Fire Next Time, or the lesser known (with Margaret Mead) A Rap on Race, and spend some time with Brother Baldwin. You can also check out the full-length documentary (extended version of the clip above) California Newsreel, “The Price of the Ticket.”
I’m surprised Google didn’t feature Baldwin in a creative logo (aka, “Google Doodle”) as they often do other notable people’s birthdays. Curious, that.