James Baldwin (1924-1987) is best known as the author of the book, Go Tell It on the Mountain, a book hailed for its insight on race and spirituality. However, he also published many essays in which he discussed racial and social issues plaguing America in the 20th century, which he had a not so uncommon view of from Harlem, New York.
Baldwin’s novels read much like autobiographies regarding his life, and Baldwin has admitted that in Go Tell it on the Mountain he deals with issues that hurt him. This is of no surprise, as that is one of the first pieces of advice people give aspiring writers: write what you know. He furthered this by writing about living in Paris as an immigrant, and expanded on this with discussions of homosexuality in Giovanni’s Room. I admire his strength and courage to tackle the issues of race and sexuality, both issues he was on the “losing side of” in 1950s America, when I imagine everybody wanted to talk about it, but few people had the courage.
At the end of the day, I chose to write about Baldwin not because I had a lot to say, but because he did the things that I pray to have the courage to do. It was somewhat of a selfish post, I cannot deny that. He openly discussed race and sexuality in a time when nobody was talking about them. Today, everybody is talking about it, but it seems nobody is listening. As with so many other posts for this month, I ask, what has really changed?
Ultimately, what has really changed is a running theme for the posts this year and it is a question that in general is just not asked often enough.