James Baldwin was an African-American essayist, playwright, and novelist who was born in New York City in 1924. When he was a child, he lived in New York with his mother, step-father, and younger siblings. He looked up to his step-father, who he regarded as his real father because his biological father left his mother before he was born. His step-father was a minister, so when Baldwin was young, he served as a youth minister.
Baldwin attended high school in the Bronx where his passion for reading and writing was kindled. He discovered his writing abilities and began writing the school magazine. His works consisted of poems, short stories, and plays which all showed great maturity in structure and style for his age.
By the time he finished high school, he had seven younger siblings. Because of this, he stayed home after he graduated to take miscellaneous jobs in order to earn money to support his family. Baldwin began to face discrimination in the working world when he was rejected from several jobs just because he was African-American. He later moved out of his family’s home and into a neighborhood known for housing artists and writers. This is when he decided he was going to write a novel and, once again, picked up any jobs he could to support himself while pursuing his writing career. When his works began to be included in more well-known publications, he began making more money and was able to move to Paris. The social climate was different in Paris which opened doors to write freely about his racial struggles.
Because he was able to be truthful about his personal life, most of his writing focus on the social struggles caused by racism. He opened up about his own experiences of discrimination, like when he was turned down from jobs because of the color of his skin. His most famous works are known for showing the brutal realities of the lives Blacks lived in the American South. He also explored interracial relationships and homosexual relationships which were very unique and controversial during his time.
Due to his his brutally honest writing style that many admired, he achieved many major accomplishments. His collection of essays The Fire Next Time that realistically depicted the life of an African American sold more than a million copies. As a way to honor his achievement and exemplary writings, he was featured on the cover of the TIME magazine. He later died in Paris in 1987.
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