On This Gay Day: Author James Baldwin was born

Author James Baldwin was born in 1924

James Baldwin was born on this day in 1924 in Harlem New York City. Baldwin would become a celebrated author whose characters often sought acceptance into society. He included gay and bisexual men as characters in many of this works.

Baldwin wrote essays, plays, and novels, often embracing themes relating to race, masculinity, sexuality and class. His first novel Go Tell It On The Mountain was released in 1953 and is largely autobiographical focusing on the role of the Pentecostal church in the lives of African Americans.

Baldwin’s second novel Giovanni’s Room was released in 1956 and tells the story of an American man living in Paris and exploring the city’s gay bars. It is credited with prompting more widespread discussion about sexuality, and was released several years before the Stonewall riots.

The author continued to feature gay and bisexual characters in his following books including Another Country (1962) and Tell Me How Long The Trains Been Gone (1968). In the 1960’s Baldwin was a prominent contributor to the civil rights movement and later wrote about his book length essay No Name in the Street which reflected on his friendships with Sidney Poitier, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X and Medgar Evans – who were all assassinated.

Baldwin’s 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk was adapted into a film in 2018. During his life Baldwin was friends with Nina Simone, Marlon Brando, Jean Genet, Toni Morrison, Miles Davis, Richard Avedon, Jean-Paul Sartre and many other leading creative and literary figures.

He died in Paris in 1987 after battling stomach cancer. He has been cited as one of the most important writers of the 2oth century. In June 2019 he was one of inaugural fifty American “pioneers, trailblazers and heroes” inducted on the the USA’s National LGBTQ Wall of Honour within the Stonewall monument.

Photograph by Allan Warren published under Creative Commons 3.0 SA.
This post was originally published on 2nd August 2020. 

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