Where has James Baldwin Been all My Life?

Feb 20, 2019

 Being a 30 year old Harlem native, I am ashamed to even say this but I had never heard of or read James Baldwin until about three years ago. It is even more frustrating because I attended Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem, New York where black literature and culture was everywhere, so how in the world did I miss out on all this mans beautiful work? Granted, I haven't missed out, as books and words live on forever, but still! It really amazes me that Baldwins novels/essays/speeches are not apart of any school curriculum that I have attended.

I believe I was scrolling through Instagram one day and Grownish star Yara Shahidi was gushing over her favorite novel which happened to be Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin. Being a book lover, naturally I wrote the title down and promised to look into it later. I ordered Giovanni's Room, read it and loved it. When I find something I love, I become obsessive, whether it be with books, movies, music, so after reading Giovanni's Room, I wanted to read everything this man has ever written. Looking through James Baldwin's bibliography, I quickly found myself up until 3 am watching speeches by Baldwin on YouTube, his documentary: The Price of the Ticket and his famous debate with William Buckley in 1965. Again, I was angered that this man and his words had not found their way into my life much much sooner. 

It is black history month, so I wanted to celebrate it by highlighting James Baldwin and his work. As he has quickly become one of my favorite authors. What’s remarkable is that Baldwin’s words and sentiments can easily be applied to the world we live in today. Sadly, as much as things have changed, they have also stayed the same. Making my way through James Baldwin's body of work  has been a beautiful experience to say the least. If you have not read anything by him yet, please stop reading this and go get Go Tell It On The Mountain, I promise you will thank me later!

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