WRITINGS BY THE AUTHOR:
- Go Tell It on the Mountain (New York: Knopf, 1953; London: Joseph, 1954).
- Notes of a Native Son (Boston: Beacon, 1955; London: Mayflower, 1958).
- Giovanni's Room (New York: Dial, 1956; London: Joseph, 1957).
- Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son (New York: Dial, 1961; London: Joseph, 1964).
- Another Country (New York: Dial, 1962; London: Joseph, 1963).
- The Fire Next Time (New York: Dial, 1963; London: Joseph, 1963).
- Nothing Personal, photographs by Richard Avedon (New York: Atheneum, 1964; Baltimore & Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1964).
- Blues For Mister Charlie: A Play (New York: Dial, 1964; London: Joseph, 1965).
- Going to Meet the Man (New York: Dial, 1965; London: Joseph, 1965).
- The Amen Corner: A Play (New York: Dial, 1968; London: Joseph, 1969).
- Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone (New York: Dial, 1968; London: Joseph, 1968).
- A Rap on Race, by Baldwin and Margaret Mead (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1971; London: Joseph, 1971).
- One Day When I Was Lost: A Scenario Based on Alex Haley's "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" (London: Joseph, 1972; New York: Dial, 1973).
- No Name in The Street (New York: Dial, 1972; London: Joseph, 1972).
- César: Compressions, l'homme et la machine, by Baldwin and Françoise Giroud, translated by Yvonne Roux (Paris: Hachette, 1973).
- If Beale Street Could Talk (New York: Dial, 1974; London: Joseph, 1974).
- The Devil Finds Work: An Essay (New York: Dial, 1976; London: Joseph, 1976).
- Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood (New York: Dial, 1976; London: Joseph, 1976).
- Just Above My Head (New York: Dial, 1979; London: Joseph, 1979).
- Jimmy's Blues: Selected Poems (London: Joseph, 1983; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985).
- The Evidence of Things Not Seen (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1985); republished as Evidence of Things Not Seen (London: Joseph, 1986).
- The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948-1985 (New York: St. Martin's Press/Marek, 1985; London: Joseph, 1985).
- Gypsy & Other Poems (Searsmont, Me.: Gehenna Press, 1989).
- Sonny's Blues and Other Stories (London: Penguin, 1995).
Editions and Collections
- Go Tell It on the Mountain (Franklin Center, Pa.: Franklin Library, 1979).
- James Baldwin: Early Novels and Stories, edited by Toni Morrison, Library of America, no. 97 (New York: Library of America, 1998)--comprises Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni's Room, Another Country, and Going to Meet the Man.
- James Baldwin: Collected Essays, edited by Morrison, Library of America, no. 98 (New York: Library of America, 1998)--includes Notes of a Native Son, Nobody Knows My Name, The Fire Next Time, No Name in the Street, and The Devil Finds Work.
When he died on 1 December 1987, James Baldwin was remembered as a prophet who addressed the causes and results of racial conflict. He spent his entire literary career writing essays, speeches, stories, two plays, and six novels about the inherent untruth of life in this democratic United States and how its citizens ultimately mirror that dishonesty in their lives. Baldwin often said that few were willing to pay the price of the ticket; few were willing to suffer the consequences of being honest.
Despite his fame as an essayist, Baldwin viewed himself as a novelist. His first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, was published in 1953 to generally positive reviews. Coming on the heels of Ralph Ellison's acclaimed Invisible Man (1952), Baldwin's novel seemed to herald a new era in American fiction. In 1986 it was adapted for television by the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). Giovanni's Room (1956) and Another Country (1962), which both explore the theme of sexuality, still attract analysis from literary critics. Baldwin's last four novels--Another Country, Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone (1968), If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), and Just Above My Head (1979)--all explore the journey of the artist. These novels, among Baldwin's most autobiographical works, have been almost ignored by literary critics, with the exception of Another Country. Yet, these novels may be read as Baldwin's best expression of his vision of the terrifying and lonely life of the artist.
Baldwin was born James Arthur Jones on 2 August 1924 in Harlem Hospital to unmarried Emma Berdis Jones. In 1927 she married David Baldwin, who later adopted the boy, making him James Arthur Baldwin. Emma Jones and David Baldwin had eight children together: George, Barbara, Wilmer, David, Gloria, Ruth, Elizabeth, and Paula. As the eldest, Baldwin helped his mother care for the children. In an early essay titled "Autobiographical Notes" Baldwin described having spent his youth with a child in one hand and a book in the other. An avid reader, Baldwin cited his literary influences as including Henry James , Harriet Beecher Stowe , and Charles Dickens .
While a student at Frederick Douglass Junior High School, Baldwin met Countee Cullen , perhaps the most famous and talented poet of the Harlem Renaissance. Cullen's command of French and his years spent in France inspired Baldwin. The poet encouraged the younger man to apply to Cullen's alma mater, the prestigious DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx section of New York City. While at DeWitt Clinton, Baldwin wrote short stories, plays, and poetry. He joined the staff of The Magpie, the school literary magazine, and interviewed Cullen in 1942. Baldwin received his high school diploma in January 1942.
With college out of his financial reach, Baldwin was unsure that he could be a writer. Yet, writing seemed like breathing for him. His good friend Emile Capouya had introduced Baldwin to painter Beauford Delaney in 1940. The fact that Delaney, an African American man, had established himself as an artist affected Baldwin greatly. In one of his last essays, included in The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948-1985 (1985), Baldwin described how Delaney transformed his world: "I walked through that door into Beauford's colors. . . . I walked into music. . . . I began to hear what I had never dared or been able to hear." After meeting Delaney, Baldwin began to envision life as a writer as a legitimate possibility: "Beauford was the first walking, living proof, for me, that a black man could be an artist."
His stepfather's declining mental and physical health had increased the family's reliance upon Baldwin. David Baldwin died on 29 July 1943, the same day that his last child was born. Baldwin wrote of his conflicting emotions in the essay "Notes of a Native Son." David Baldwin's relationship with his stepson was tense and combative; he opposed Baldwin's friends who were not African American and urged the young man to reject the secular world. David was slowly going insane, a condition that became clearer as time passed. Baldwin's conflicting feelings of rage and love for his stepfather, along with the pressure of trying to financially support his family, led him to leave home.
Baldwin's move to Greenwich Village in 1943 coincided with the end of a three-year stint as a youth preacher. He worked a series of jobs and was employed as a waiter at The Calypso restaurant in the Village. This restaurant provided a haven for Baldwin, and it figures prominently in his fiction. Baldwin had begun writing book reviews for magazines and was working on a novel. During this period a mutual friend introduced Baldwin to noted African American writer Richard Wright , who, since the publication and incredible success of his novel Native Son in 1940, had become someone against whom success was measured. Wright read a draft of what became Go Tell It on the Mountain, and he helped Baldwin to obtain a Eugene F. Saxon Memorial Trust Award to help fund his writing.
In 1948 Baldwin's short story "Previous Condition" was published in Commentary magazine. The story focuses on the experiences of Peter, an African American actor, whose race accounts for many of his frustrations. There is a sense of placelessness about Peter; he is not accepted in his Greenwich Village neighborhood, nor does he fit in Harlem. He is searching for something but remains unfulfilled. The story opens with Peter being evicted from an apartment in Greenwich Village because of his race and ends with him sitting in a Harlem bar. Baldwin's symbolic use of geography became a central characteristic of his work.
Baldwin left for Paris in 1948 and returned in 1952 with his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain , about to be published. Autobiographical in nature, Go Tell It on the Mountain traces the events of John Grimes's fourteenth birthday. John struggles with his religious faith, his feelings for his father, and, more subtly, his sexual attraction to a young man. His mother, Elizabeth, was an unmarried woman with a son when she met Gabriel Grimes, a widowed preacher. Gabriel marries Elizabeth and has three children with her but never really accepts John, who feels unwanted and unloved, even hated, by his stepfather. Throughout the course of the novel John tries to figure out why his father dislikes him, what his relationship is to the church, and just who he is.
The structure of Go Tell It on the Mountain is one of its most effective elements. Baldwin, using flashbacks, tells the personal histories of all of the main characters while they are on the threshing floor of the church one Saturday night with John. Go Tell It on the Mountain is divided into three sections. Part 1, "The Seventh Day," opens on a Saturday in March as John wonders if anyone remembers it is his birthday. He is performing his usual Saturday morning chores when his mother gives him some change for his birthday. John uses the money to escape to the movies; but he cannot elude the rigid ideas of good and evil that dominate his life at home. When John returns home, the household is in turmoil. His stubborn little brother, Roy, has been injured while fighting with white boys, and Gabriel manages to blame John for the fight. Later, John goes to clean the church for the Saturday night service. Brother Elisha comes to help him, and John's attraction to Elisha is revealed to the reader.
Part 2, "The Prayers of the Saints," presents the life histories of Gabriel, his sister Florence, and Elizabeth. These three adults influence John greatly, and their pasts reveal much about their behavior toward John. The flashbacks of part 2 give depth to the characters and help to make them more sympathetic.
Florence's prayer occurs when she stands at the altar asking for the Lord's help. Her brother is pleased to see her in need and, in his mind, humbled. Actually, Florence is ill, and she seeks to right wrongs before her death. Her prayer recounts the sad events of her childhood and her adult life as a lonely and bitter woman. She grew up to abhor suffering and men, particularly her brother; yet, Florence always shows John affection. All she wants is not to be like her mother: poor, sick, and alone. She is destined, however, to be in a similar situation.
Gabriel's prayer details his life as a rather reckless young man. Drinking, partying, and women filled his days. Even after he experienced a religious conversion, Gabriel continued to sin. He committed adultery and then refused to acknowledge the child who resulted from these encounters. The hypocrisy of Gabriel's negative focus on Elizabeth's illegitimate child is emphasized to the reader through his relentless haranguing of John. Gabriel emerges as a deeply troubled, hypocritical, sad, and bitter man.
Elizabeth's prayer is perhaps the most poignant. John's mother has an air of resignation about her life with her husband, Gabriel. John had been born illegitimate, so Elizabeth was grateful that Gabriel wanted to marry her and become a father to her son. The only time she resembled anything other than a long-suffering mother was when she was young and with John's father.
Part 3, "The Threshing Floor," centers around John's being saved. He spends the hours from Saturday night to Sunday morning on the threshing floor, giving his life to the Lord. Baldwin describes the experience as a journey from darkness to light. John wants Elisha, in particular, to remember his religious conversion: "'Elisha,' he said, 'no matter what happens to me, where I go, what folks say about me, no matter what anybody says, you remember--please remember--I was saved. I was there.'" The sense of foreshadowing in John's statement implies that someone, someday will accuse him of not loving the Lord; the suggestion is that John's homosexuality will cause him to leave the church. In Ride Out the Wilderness: Geography and Identity in Afro-American Literature (1987) Melvin Dixon argues that John's conversion acts as a liberating force and bodes well for his future: "John Grimes is converted out of religion; he is delivered out of the moral authority of the church and of his preacher stepfather, Gabriel."
John's feelings for Elisha are sexual in nature. Elisha guides John through the darkness of the threshing floor and gives him a holy kiss at the conclusion of the novel. The end of the novel appears to be a new beginning for John. He defies his father in the last scene and announces his intention to continue doing so. This aspect of the novel has attracted much critical attention. Dixon sees John's attempt to reconcile his religious faith and his sexual feelings as the central question in the novel. Kenneth Barksdale's review of Go Tell It on the Mountain in Phylon in 1953 is representative of the critical reception: Barksdale describes Go Tell It on the Mountain as "a very fine first novel" and praises its universal appeal.
Although most of the action of the novel takes place in a church, Baldwin's representation of Christianity, particularly as practiced in some African American churches, is tainted with fear and exclusivity. In 1984, however, Baldwin gave his readers a glimpse into what he saw as the themes of the novel: "Go Tell It on the Mountain, for example, is not about a church. . . . It's about what happens to you if you're afraid to love anybody." Indeed, love is a central theme in all of Baldwin's works. Love begins with self, and most of Baldwin's protagonists must learn to love themselves before they can have successful romantic relationships.
Baldwin had published a story titled "The Death of the Prophet" in Commentary in March 1950 that is actually a sequel to Go Tell It on the Mountain. The story, like the novel, is told from the perspective of a third-person narrator. John Grimes is now a young adult living on his own in Greenwich Village. He leaves his family, but, in reality, he flees his father's wrath: "He fought to be free of his father and his father's God." The story traces John's visit to the dying Gabriel's bedside. Gabriel has been in the hospital for two years suffering from paranoia and tuberculosis, and he is in a coma by the time of John's visit. The sight of his father's sunken form leads John to scream and faint. The doctor with whom John speaks implies that an argument between John and his father contributed to his father's current state: after John left home, Gabriel became suspicious of everyone.
John's life is now filled with all those things his father despises: drinking, smoking, partying, and white people. John describes his father's reaction to his young Jewish friend who has come to take John to the movies. John makes his friend go into the hall while he confronts his father: "he looked into his father's eyes. His father looked on him with that distant hatred with which one considers Judas." This scene is reminiscent of the last scene in Go Tell It on the Mountain when John looks at his father, in a moment of implied power and rebellion, as he replies to his mother, "I'm ready . . . I'm coming. I'm on my way." John is indeed on his way, out of his father's house and into his own life. "The Death of the Prophet" is as much a story about John's development as it is about the death of Gabriel Grimes.
Notes of a Native Son , a collection of eleven essays, was published in 1955. The title essay makes reference to Wright's seminal novel Native Son and to Baldwin's claim as a son of the United States of America. The first section of Notes of a Native Son focuses on the representation of African Americans in literature and motion pictures. The second examines the experiences of African Americans in the United States and the effects of racism. Finally, the third recounts Baldwin's experiences in France.
"Notes of a Native Son," perhaps Baldwin's most anthologized essay, is his eloquent attempt to come to some understanding of his father, their relationship, and the idea of legacy. Three important events happened close together: Baldwin's nineteenth birthday, the death of his father, and the birth of his sister Paula. There was also a race riot occurring in Harlem, and all these events caused Baldwin to reflect upon their meanings. Baldwin saw his father's bitter response to racism as a factor in his demise. The most poignant part of the essay involves Baldwin's attempts to reconcile his feelings about his father and to comprehend his father's legacy. David Baldwin strongly disliked white people and, although he acknowledged Baldwin's decision to become a writer, he did not support it.
Baldwin's next book, Giovanni's Room , follows the experiences of David, a white American who is living in Paris. David, the narrator, is in flight not only from his country but also from himself and his deepest desires. While his fiancée, Hella, is in Spain, David begins a relationship with Giovanni, a young Italian man; however, he cannot acknowledge this relationship because he refuses to address his homosexuality. Giovanni awakens David's desire for men, and that fills him with emotions: "The beast which Giovanni had awakened in me would never go to sleep again; but one day I would not be with Giovanni anymore. . . . With this fearful intimation there opened in me a hatred for Giovanni which was as powerful as my love and which was nourished by the same roots."
Masculinity and terror are two key themes in Giovanni's Room. David is fearful of being considered lacking in manhood and even considers having children to affirm it. David keeps Hella as a tangible sign of his masculinity. Flight is also a major theme as David drinks and travels in an attempt to forget his troubles rather than face them. Giovanni's room represents a homosexual lifestyle that both entices David and disgusts him. The futility of such a life, at least in David's mind, leads him to renounce Giovanni: "What kind of life can we have in this room?--this filthy little room. What kind of life can two men have together anyway?" Indeed, David, who yearns for societal acceptance, cannot conceive of a world in which two men would live together happily.
Giovanni had come to Paris after leaving Italy when a baby he had fathered was stillborn. He seems desperate for love, and that desperation may be what frightens David as Giovanni clings to him. David runs back to Hella, who has returned to Paris from Spain, and Giovanni is convicted of murdering Guillaume, an old, vindictive gay man who had fired Giovanni from his job as a bartender. David, full of remorse and guilt about Giovanni's pending execution, flees into the arms of a sailor, and Hella tracks him down at a gay bar in Nice.
Even then, David cannot admit his homosexuality. Early in the novel, David announces his intention to ignore his sexuality: "I had decided to allow no room in the universe for something which shamed and frightened me." As his life collapses around him, David tries to explain his feelings to Hella: "'I wish, anyway,' I said at last, 'that you'd believe me when I say that, if I was lying, I wasn't lying to you. . . . I mean,' I said, 'I was lying to myself.'" David's indecisiveness and his nonresponse lead Hella to imply that he is not a man. After Hella leaves him for good, David heads back to Paris.
Baldwin had a difficult time getting Giovanni's Room published in the United States, largely because of the explicit depiction of homosexual relationships. The critical response to the novel was Baldwin's introduction to the racialized literary world. Many reviewers, such as Leslie Fiedler, seemed disturbed that a novel by an African American writer did not feature any African American characters. In February 1957 James Ivy reviewed Giovanni's Room for The Crisis, the publication of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, under the title "Faerie Queens." He lamented the fact that Baldwin, already known as an advocate for African Americans, wasted his talent writing about a homosexual affair involving white men. Despite David's rather tortured feelings toward his homosexuality, Giovanni's Room has been hailed as groundbreaking by literary critics who are interested in gay and lesbian issues.
Baldwin undertook his first trip to the Southern states in 1957 to research articles for Partisan Review and Harper's Magazine. One of his better-known stories, "Sonny's Blues," was published in Partisan Review in 1957. Baldwin returned to Paris during the summer of 1958. In 1959 he won a Ford Foundation grant to complete his next novel, Another Country. He continued to give speeches and travel while managing to keep writing.
Published in June 1962, Another Country is essentially the story of African American Rufus Scott's adulthood and death and how his demise affects his family and friends. Another Country is also the story of Eric Jones, a white Southern gay actor who was Rufus's friend and lover. Their relationship, though not depicted, is the center of the novel.
The first section of the novel, "Easy Rider," centers on Rufus's life, the reasons behind his suicide, and his relationship with Leona, a white Southern woman. His best friend Vivaldo Moore and his sister Ida figure prominently in the novel as well. Richard and Cass Silenski, old friends of Vivaldo, are a middle-aged married couple who are experiencing trouble in their relationship. Section 2, "Any Day Now," begins with Eric in France with his lover Yves. Eric is preparing for a trip to the United States and thus must face everything that he left behind. He is on his way to becoming a successful actor, and returning home will insure his success. Eric's arrival affects the lives of the characters in the novel. Section 3, "Toward Bethlehem," resolves the myriad relationships in the novel.
The novel opens with a memorable image of Rufus, homeless and hungry, walking the streets of New York City. As he walks, Rufus remembers what put him on the street. Readers thus learn the details of Rufus's life in flashback and understand his dilemma: "He was so tired, he had fallen so low, that he scarcely had the energy to be angry; nothing of his belonged to him anymore--you took the best, so why not take the rest?" A jazz drummer by profession, Rufus seems lost and emotionally distant. As Rufus performs at his last gig, a young saxophone player inspires the audience and the musicians to reflect on their lives. "Do you love me? This, anyway, was the question Rufus heard, the same phrase, unbearably, endlessly, and variously repeated with all of the force the boy had." This question of love, and of self-love, is the one Rufus must answer.
The relationship between Rufus and Leona begins on the night of his last performance. Their eyes meet while Rufus is on the stage, and they continue their flirtation at a party. They consummate their attraction by having sex on a balcony high above Manhattan. Rufus and Leona's relationship allows Baldwin to create a portrait of race relations in the early 1960s. The reaction to the lovers is intense on all sides. Rufus surrounds himself with white people, but his easy acquisition of Leona leads him to madness. He becomes convinced that Leona dates him because of the stereotype of African American men as being sexually superior to white men: "'You know all that chick knows about me? The only thing she knows?' He put his hand on his sex, brutally as though he would tear it out."
Thematically, the novel addresses many issues surrounding race and romantic relationships. At the center of any discussion of Another Country must be the issue of love, specifically self-love. Rufus cannot bring himself to accept or love all of himself, while Eric does. Thus, Rufus's inaction insures his literal and figurative death, just as Eric's actions insure his survival. The thing that separates them is courage.
Rufus throws himself off of the George Washington Bridge at the end of the first section of the novel. The reader, like his family and friends, spends the rest of the novel attempting to understand what led Rufus to kill himself. His last thoughts are full of clues: "Something in Rufus which could not break shook him like a rag doll and splashed salt water all over his face and filled his throat and nostrils with anguish. He knew the pain would never stop." Rufus's status as an African American man certainly contributed to his death, as he deals with racism throughout his brief appearance in the novel. While some of his actions are certainly horrific, Rufus is ultimately a sympathetic character. Another of his last thoughts is of Eric.
Eric and Rufus's relationship was doomed by Rufus's inability to accept his feelings for another man. He does not accept his homosexuality and punishes Eric for their sexual acts. But as he dies, "He remembered only that Eric had loved him; as he now remembered that Leona had loved him. He had despised Eric's manhood by treating him as a woman, by telling him how inferior he was to a woman, by treating him as nothing more than a hideous sexual deformity." When Eric learns of Rufus's violent relationship with Leona, he recalls their past: "He remembered Rufus' face, his hands, his body, and his voice, and the constant humiliation." Eric fled to France, where he found love with Yves, a white Frenchman.
Just as Rufus is dying, Eric experiences a rebirth. He has been able to define his life for himself and resist the negativity associated with his homosexuality. While he has found happiness in France, he must come to terms with the life that he left in the United States. Eric prospers because he is able to share his hard-won self-love and acceptance with others. All who are intimate with him find themselves transformed. Eric has brief love affairs with Cass, a middle-class wife and mother, and Vivaldo, a young writer. Vivaldo finally acknowledges the futility of his relationship with Rufus's sister Ida, and his writing begins to flourish.
Another Country is the basis for Eldridge Cleaver's attack on Baldwin in his 1968 collection of essays, Soul on Ice. Cleaver's views on Baldwin and Another Country document the reactions of some black nationalists to Baldwin's fiction. Cleaver describes Rufus as "a pathetic wretch who indulged in the white man's pastime of committing suicide." Cleaver goes on to denigrate Baldwin personally: "There is in James Baldwin's work the most grueling, agonizing, total hatred of the blacks, particularly of himself, and the most shameful, fanatical, fawning, sycophantic love of the whites that one can find in the writings of any black American writer of note in our time." Cleaver's review of the novel is echoed by major African American literary theorists of the period. In The Way of the New World: The Black Novel in America (1975) Addison Gayle Jr. offers a fairly typical black nationalist view of the novel: "Rufus has been murdered by an uncaring, unfeeling white society. Another Country [is] a novel of vengeance and redemption." Black nationalists such as Gayle and Cleaver condemn Baldwin for making white characters of equal importance in terms of plot to his African American characters. Gayle also accuses Baldwin of accepting the white stereotypes about African Americans. Yet, Baldwin suffered these attacks in silence, preferring not to spar in public with those whom he considered his literary descendants.
Because Baldwin's initial focus is on Rufus, readers are forced to examine the ways in which social norms lead to a denial of identity and to death for the African American bisexual. In his study of gay self-representation in fiction, David Bergman argues that Baldwin is careful to make all his characters bisexual. They are never depicted as "'faggots', by which Baldwin means exclusively and effeminately homosexual." Baldwin expressed his thoughts on homosexuality and race in a 1986 interview with Richard Goldstein of the Village Voice (published in James Baldwin: The Legacy, edited by Quincy Troupe, 1989):
A black gay person who is a sexual conundrum to society is already, long before the question of sexuality comes into it, menaced and marked because he's black or she's black. The sexual question comes after the question of color; it's simply one more aspect of the danger in which all black people live.
The "question of color" is what leads Rufus to commit suicide, though his denial of his sexual feelings and his acknowledgment of the sexual acts he performs with Eric play an important role. In "Alas, Poor Richard," his essay on Wright, Baldwin contemplates the cost upon the African American psyche: "But I am suggesting that one of the prices an American Negro pays--or can pay--for what is called his 'acceptance' is a profound, almost ineradicable self-hatred. This corrupts every aspect of his living, he is never at peace again, he is out of touch with himself forever." Rufus has sex with Eric and Leona because he wants their love, but he sees himself as being unworthy of anyone's love. Walking the streets of New York City and contemplating prostituting himself makes Rufus think of Eric: "He glimpsed, for the first time, the extent, the nature, of Eric's loneliness and the danger in which this placed him; and wished that he had been nicer to him."
Harlem, which is characterized in Baldwin stories such as "Previous Condition" and in Go Tell It on the Mountain as overly religious and life-threatening, is only a shadowy presence in this novel. The distance between Greenwich Village and Harlem is not just geographic but emotional. Because his friends and lovers are white, Rufus constantly questions these relationships. By situating Rufus in Greenwich Village and surrounding him with white characters, Baldwin draws attention to the absence of African Americans in the life of his principal character. The lack of community for Rufus leads to his fate.
Perhaps Another Country is Baldwin's test of the integrationist policies of the 1950s. Both Rufus and Ida Scott attempt to realize their artistic goals in the white world of Greenwich Village and midtown Manhattan. Yet, both characters become pawns in someone else's sexual fantasy. They cannot escape the sexual stereotypes of African Americans and are seen as the black buck and the Jezebel, a promiscuous black woman. Ida personifies the rage of African Americans during the 1960s. Blaming white America for her brother's death, Ida turns her relationships with the white characters in the novel to her advantage. However, her tenuous standing as a jazz vocalist emerges from the opinion of her peers, jazz musicians. She has not endured the requisite suffering, and her willingness to profit from Rufus's suffering dooms her artistic effort.
Another Country is also a critique of conventional notions of masculinity. All of the male characters, with the exception of Eric, struggle with the way in which masculinity is constructed in the United States, and each of them ultimately rejects narrow definitions of a gendered self. Even the minor characters Vivaldo and Richard change their views of themselves as men. Richard had been Vivaldo's high-school English teacher, and the two are engaged in a subtle competition. Each man has been writing a novel for years, but Richard secretly finishes his book and presents Vivaldo with a published copy. Richard's community of family and friends loses respect for him as a writer, however, because they recognize the lack of truth and artistic effort in his commercially successful novel. Richard defines himself by his roles as a father, husband, and provider. He is forced to reexamine his life when his wife commits adultery with a bisexual man. Vivaldo may not be a popular writer like Richard, but readers respect him as an artist because they see the internal struggle and self-examination he undergoes in order to write fiction.
Although his career had been flourishing in France, Baldwin had returned to the United States in 1957 because he felt strongly that he could assist in the fight for civil rights. A significant period in Baldwin's civil-rights activism began in 1963. In addition to giving speeches, Baldwin met with Attorney General Robert Kennedy in an attempt to get federal protection for Freedom Riders and to protest the lack of government action in the area of civil rights for African Americans. Baldwin's second play, Blues for Mr. Charlie, ran in New York City from April to August 1964. His first play, The Amen Corner, which had premiered in 1955, opened at the Barrymore Theater in New York City in April 1965. Baldwin was also in the process of collecting his short stories for publication as Going to Meet the Man (1965) and working on a screenplay, One Day When I Was Lost: A Scenario Based on Alex Haley's "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" (1972).
The Fire Next Time (1963), a nonfiction collection including two essays concerning the fate of a racist United States, quickly became one of Baldwin's best-selling books. Baldwin's observations introduced him to a new audience, one that was unfamiliar with his fiction. The positive response to The Fire Next Time was a result of its focus on the crucial matter of race. Baldwin's statement that the future of the country was linked to its treatment of African Americans enthralled the country: "The price of the liberation of white people is the liberation of the blacks." He appeared on talk shows and was interviewed many times. With success came fame, and Baldwin probes the nature of fame in his fourth novel, Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone.
Baldwin composed Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone between 1965 and 1967, over several continents and amid much confusion. His inclusion of the dates and locations of the writing at the end of the novel is a testament to the difficulties he encountered. During these years Baldwin was attempting to juggle his writing career with his assumed duties as a spokesperson for African Americans. The demands upon him to speak out against racism continued to increase, while time set aside for writing dwindled. Inevitably, personal doubts and professional criticism began to emerge.
The most compelling portrayal of Baldwin during this period is that offered by Fern Marja Eckman in The Furious Passage of James Baldwin (1966). Although she refrains from delving into his sexual liaisons, Eckman succeeds in conveying a sense of the whirlwind within which Baldwin lived. Constantly surrounded by an entourage, Baldwin moved from one speaking engagement to another. Alternatively angry and mellow, the writer was only occasionally sober. Though he was seldom alone, the image of Baldwin that emerged was that of a lonely man. As Eckman says, "he . . . feels himself a stranger everywhere, not least of all within himself." Perhaps more important, Eckman identifies the demands of fame as the source of Baldwin's melancholy. Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone, with its examination of social and political change, offers Baldwin's most sustained meditations on fame and the impact of celebrity on the artist.
Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone is Baldwin's least known novel, and it caused a stir when it was published by Dial Press in 1968. Leo Proudhammer, the protagonist and narrator, is an internationally famous actor who most readers thought resembled Sidney Poitier. The novel tells the story of Leo's failure to analyze and accept himself and the resulting pain and loneliness of living a lie.
Although he frequently wrote about musicians, Baldwin turned to acting for his examination of the African American male artist and the ways in which he is co-opted by fame and his celebrity status. Leo does not inspire sympathy as Sonny did in "Sonny's Blues." His detachment from himself and his life, aided by his profession, becomes infectious. The enticing, almost sensual mystique of the artist and his chosen art form, an integral element in Baldwin's most memorable artistic characters, is clearly missing in Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone.
Baldwin depicts Leo as being as artificial as the world of the movies he so adored as a child. In Baldwin's fiction, movies are seen by African Americans as windows on the unattainable white world. The young Leo escapes to the dark microcosm of the movies to enter traditional white society in the only role it allows him: that of a voyeur, a visitor. He recalls, "The faces of the movie stars . . . looked like faces far from me, faces which I would never be able to decipher, faces which could be seen but never changed or touched, faces which existed only behind these doors." As an adult Leo seeks to duplicate the distance that he has associated with actors and acting since his childhood.
The accoutrements of celebrity, the special treatment, the adoring fans, are all things that Leo uses to hide from himself: "I am ready: dark blue suit . . . Brazilian cufflinks, black pumps. I am a star again. I look it and I feel it." His only identity, the only one that he can face, is that of a famous actor. Acting becomes Leo's mask. Instead of attempting to gain a secure identity, Leo prefers to adopt one each night at the theater. The title of Leo's next motion picture, Big Deal, is Baldwin's commentary on the emptiness of his life and career.
Leo's memories form the three sections of the novel and serve as an introduction to those who had the greatest impact on his life: Barbara King, the white actress who is his former lover and now friend, and his older brother, Caleb Proudhammer. "The House Nigger," the first section of the novel, begins as Leo suffers a heart attack onstage while performing the role of Othello opposite Barbara as Desdemona. Lying in his hospital bed, Leo finally reflects upon his past. Leo's feelings about his sexuality are also revealed in "The House Nigger" as he recalls his two forbidden loves, a white woman and a homosexual man.
The second section, "Is There Anybody There, Said the Traveler," focuses on Leo's youthful experiences with the Actors' Means Workshop and the closeness he once shared with Caleb. Biographer David Leeming notes that several characters in this section are based on acquaintances Baldwin made during the brief Broadway run of his play Blues for Mister Charlie in 1964. As the only African American in the theater company, Leo is constantly aware of being out of place. His activities, monitored by distrustful townspeople, lead to his being harassed by the police. The second section of the novel also further explores relationships between the members of the Proudhammer family.
As a young boy Leo learns of the disparity between the races and questions the meaning of democracy. The reality of racism ruins his childhood fantasies. The Proudhammer family consists of a father, an immigrant from Trinidad; a somewhat idealized mulatto mother; the older, rebellious Caleb; and little Leo. One explanation for Leo's estrangement lies in his relationship with Caleb. Disabled by his inability to accept the changes wrought by imprisonment and racism faced by his older brother, Leo does not allow anyone to get close to him. He is intent on not experiencing the transformative power of deeply emotional, religious, and sexual life that releases Caleb from his dungeon.
The lack of one consistent emotional and sexual relationship in Leo's life is further evidence of his failure as an artist-hero. Linked by their desire to escape their respective backgrounds, Leo and Barbara sacrifice their personal happiness for public recognition. They meet as young, would-be actors who join a summer theater troupe. One of the most crucial moments in the novel occurs when Lola and Saul San Marquand, the directors of the Actors' Means Workshop, assess Leo's and Barbara's talent. After comparing Leo unfavorably to the legendary black actor Paul Robeson, the San Marquands deliver their verdict. "There is nothing to indicate--ah--in our opinion--that you have any very striking theatrical ability." The San Marquands' unequivocal statement that Leo must be a spectacular actor to compensate for his race leads to his almost exaggerated emphasis on attaining professional success.
Barbara, ever the realist, acknowledges the futility of a romantic relationship with Leo:
That's the only way we won't lose each other . . . you don't belong to me . . . It means . . . that we must be great. That's all we'll have. That's the only way we won't lose each other . . . you don't belong to me . . . but let's be to each other what we can. But if we do it right . . . we can stretch out our while a very long while and we can make each other better.
This pact neatly removes any guilt from Leo for his selfish treatment of Barbara. Her love for Leo allows him to keep her at a distance lest she crack his armor. Barbara's willingness to accept a platonic friendship, the only relationship Leo offers her, permits him to dictate the nature of their coupling.
The third section of the novel, "Black Christopher," returns to the present as Leo leaves the hospital and resumes his life with Christopher Hall, a young African American activist. While it is often assumed that the inclusion of Christopher was Baldwin's answer to critics who asserted that he was out of touch with the social and political movements in the black community in the late 1960s, Leo's relationship with Christopher is also Baldwin's first depiction of a loving, long-term sexual relationship between two African American men. Christopher forces Leo to reevaluate his life in terms of race and his obligations to the African American community, and, in doing so, Leo finally begins to experience life instead of pretending to live one on stage. Or, as Leo puts it, Christopher defrosts him: "In beginning to thaw, I had to see how I had frozen myself; and, in freezing myself, had frozen Barbara." Christopher redeems Leo by helping him to acknowledge the many identities that define him: being famous, being bisexual, being African American, and being an actor.
Leo's relationship with Christopher can be read as an attempt to reconnect with his cultural past. Christopher, a young activist, remains part of the African American community. Having described Baldwin's writing after Another Country as overly political, Houston Baker finds the relationship between Christopher and Leo troubling: "Leo remains unsure of what he must do for or with Christopher. And while he provides material comfort to a degree of understanding, it is impossible to assume he truly understands his young lover." As written, the relationship appears doomed. Leo's uncertainty pervades every facet of his life. At the end of the novel Leo heads off, alone, for a European vacation.
The title of the novel refers to the train as a motif for freedom in African American literature. Thus, "tell me how long the train's been gone" alludes to the length of Leo's imprisonment, for he has missed the freedom train. The price of Leo's liberation is the courage to face himself. He can only be saved by his recognition and acceptance of his identity as an African American, homosexual man. Leo articulates his inability to be an artist, as Baldwin defines it, through his lifestyle and profession. His upcoming vacation fills him with fear because he will be left alone, without the mask of a role, to confront the real Leo, the one who wants to be an artistic success. Leo typifies a retreat from artistic integrity, an exchange of morality and truth for renown and money.
Autobiographical elements are sprinkled throughout the novel. Like Leo, Baldwin lived in an artists' colony and worked part-time as an artist's model, and he clearly drew upon some of the experiences for the writing of Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone. James Campbell, one of Baldwin's biographers, views the similarities between character and author as a sign of ineffective writing: "Leo's voice is James Baldwin's voice, but the character can merely mimic his creator, and the result is parody." Leeming, Baldwin's authorized biographer and his secretary during the writing of Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone, leaves no doubt as to its autobiographical import: the novel "would reflect Baldwin's situation by focusing on a public man's mid-life struggle with himself, his career, and the evil that beleaguers him." Eve Auchincloss and Nancy Lynch quote some of Baldwin's comments on fame, which are strikingly similar to Leo's: "I have a public life--and I know that, O.K. I have a private life, something which I know a good deal less. And the temptation is to avoid the private life because you can hide in the public one." In Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone Baldwin presents an artist who succumbs to the temptation.
The intense public clamor that greeted all of his nonfiction publications during the 1960s caused Baldwin to question his own effectiveness as a novelist. Many critics and readers either ignore Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone or point to it as evidence of Baldwin's limited talents as a novelist. In his book-length evaluation of Baldwin's work, Horace Porter mentions this novel only twice. Campbell charges that the novel is overly long and does not have a plot. Negative reviews, its length, and the fact that the novel is not as interesting as its premise have led to its dormant status within the Baldwin canon.
Baldwin's next novel, If Beale Street Could Talk , published by Dial Press in 1974, is the story of Tish and Fonny, two young people in love. As Trudier Harris observes in Black Women in the Fiction of James Baldwin (1985), it is Baldwin's only novel narrated by a female character. It is also his only sustained examination of heterosexual love. Divided into two sections, If Beale Street Could Talk is Baldwin's most profound meditation about the strength of love and the faith that it requires. The first section, "Troubled About My Soul," focuses on Fonny's life just before and just after his arrest. The second section, "Zion," relates the events that occur because of Fonny's arrest.
Tish and Fonny, who have been friends since they were children, fall in love with each other as young adults. Their feelings are not merely affection; each is necessary for the other's existence. The members of Tish's and Fonny's families are prominent and developed characters, and Tish and Fonny go to their families immediately after deciding to get married. Fonny's father, mother, and two sisters provide an interesting contrast to Tish's family. Fonny and his father have a warm, mutually supportive, and loving relationship; but his mother and sisters, described as having light skin and superior attitudes, seem to detest Fonny. In contrast, the closeness of Tish's family is not marred by unrealistic relationships. They fight and love fiercely. Tish's relatives appear to care for Fonny more than his own mother does.
Racism is also at the heart of If Beale Street Could Talk. Fonny is arrested for allegedly raping a Puerto Rican woman who later flees the country. The woman chooses Fonny out of a lineup in which he is the only dark-skinned African American man. No one believes in Fonny's innocence except his lawyer, his father, Tish, and her family. Fonny's mother and sisters actively work against him. Baldwin suggests that the African American man is a particular target for racism and holds a tenuous place in the United States:
The same passion which saved Fonny got him into trouble, and put him in jail. For, you see, he had found his center, his own center, inside him; and it showed. He wasn't anybody's nigger. And that is a crime in this fucking free country. You're supposed to be somebody's nigger. And if you're nobody's nigger, you're a bad nigger: and that's what the cops decided when Fonny moved downtown.
Thus, Fonny is representative of African American men in the United States and their experiences with attempting to retain their manhood in the face of constant attacks upon it.
Fonny's arrest, its impact on a pregnant Tish and their families, and the attempts to liberate him occupy much of the action of the novel. Tish, her family, and Fonny's father work to keep him optimistic. Knowing that he will be a father helps Fonny to survive being incarcerated. Fonny is also one of Baldwin's artist-heroes, and his sculpting, working with wood and stone, sustains him. His choice of material is revealing, as it suggests that his art is basic, simple, and natural. Fonny describes his two loves as sculpting and Tish. When he is imprisoned, Fonny feels as though he will die without his art. Fonny's father does die at the end of the novel: his suicide takes place just as Fonny is about to be released on bail and Tish's baby is due.
Published in the fall of 1979, Just Above My Head is Baldwin's last novel, the story of Arthur Montana's life as told by his older brother, Hall. The novel asks whether an African American singer can survive the combination of religion, art, and homosexuality. With the death of Arthur Montana at the age of thirty-nine, one can conclude that the answer is a negative one. The novel is Hall's attempt to understand his brother's death and life. It has taken two years before Hall, seven years older than Arthur, could address these subjects. Hence the relationship between the two brothers is another central element of the novel.
Just Above My Head traces the lives of the Montana family--Paul, Florence, and their sons, Hall and Arthur--and their relationship with the Miller family, comprised of Joel, Amy, and their children, Julia and Jimmy. These two families are bound together by religion, music, and the friendships between the children. Young Julia Miller's calling to preach the gospel irrevocably alters the lives of all the characters in the novel. Her time spent in the pulpit has a negative effect on her family and ultimately destroys Arthur's first serious relationship. Arthur later becomes an internationally famous gospel singer while Hall marries and starts a family. As he approaches middle age, Arthur falls in love with Jimmy, Julia's younger brother, and this union draws the Montanas and the Millers even closer. Just Above My Head, told in flashback, is divided into five books: book 1, "Have Mercy," looks at the impact of Arthur's death on his family; book 2, "Twelve Gates to the City," focuses on the influence of religion on the black family; book 3, "The Gospel Singer," concentrates on Arthur's development as a man and a singer; book 4, "Stepchild," examines the love lives of Hall and Arthur; and book 5, "The Gates of Hell," explores the last years of Arthur's life.
Hall, like the unnamed narrator in "Sonny's Blues," is an unreliable narrator on many levels, and yet he claims to view his brother's life with a clarity missing from his own: "He was on stage. He caught the light, and so I saw him: more clearly than I will ever see myself." Technically, it is impossible for Hall to truly know Arthur's intimate thoughts and feelings; he can only claim to know himself. Yet, Hall professes to have a certain insight into his brother's life, despite the fact that the two brothers are separated not only by a seven-year age difference but also by their sexual orientation. Hall is aware of Arthur's homosexuality but feels that he cannot tell this part of his brother's life. Melvin Dixon implies that Hall's status as a heterosexual makes it impossible for him to truly understand Arthur: "Hall's narration of the life of gospel singer Arthur Montana . . . is merely one brother's manipulation of another to come to terms with his conventional responsibilities to family and self." Although he admits to having no knowledge about certain parts of Arthur's life, Hall's relinquishing of the narrative to Jimmy, Arthur's lover, at the end of the novel is unsettling. Is it possible for someone, however close, to know the details of another's life? This question is central in the narrative. Arthur remains for Hall, and consequently for the reader, just above his head, ever present and yet forever out of reach.
Early in Just Above My Head the issue of legacy is evoked by Hall's son, Tony, who wonders, two years after his uncle's death, just what kind of man Arthur was. As an adolescent, Tony is in the process of coming to terms with his own sexuality and seems confused about how to deal with taunts that his uncle was a "faggot." Hall's response reveals as much about himself as it does about Arthur:
I know--before Jimmy--Arthur slept with a lot of people--mostly men, but not always. He was young, Tony. Before your mother, I slept with a lot of women . . . mostly women . . . not always. I'm proud of my brother, your uncle . . . You should be, too. Whatever the fuck your uncle was, and he was a whole lot of things, he was nobody's faggot.
Hall never expressed his pride to his brother, however.
After making love to Crunch, his first male lover, Arthur gleans insight into the meaning of his song: "He was frightened, but triumphant. He wanted to sing." He expresses his deepest feelings though his art. Love means acceptance to Arthur, and this emotion liberates, at least temporarily, his artistic voice. The problem lies in Arthur's search for acceptance from others instead of looking inward. Despite his commitment to expressing honesty in his singing, Arthur is ashamed of his status as a homosexual. His status as an artist-hero is tenuous until he learns to accept himself as a homosexual, Christian, gospel singer; he finally achieves a sense of stability in his personal and professional lives through his union with Jimmy Miller.
Although the church represents the cultural and historical legacy of the African American community in many of Baldwin's works, in his last novel the mood has changed. Early in Just Above My Head Hall hints that the church failed Arthur. Certainly his mother, Florence, blames the members of their congregation: "she feels that the people in the church, when they turned against him, became directly responsible for his death." Baldwin also uses Julia Miller, the child evangelist, as a symbol of the hypocrisy of the church. As a child Julia does not truly understand the sermons that she preaches or the lessons that she seeks to impart from her pulpit. The show-business aura that surrounds Julia during her time in the pulpit is presented with a cynical air. In Baldwin's hands religion becomes a cancer that attracts liars and cheats and tears families apart.
Just Above My Head is unusual because Baldwin presents a marriage between two African American men that is recognized and accepted by their families. Commitment is the focus of all of the couplings in the novel, not the quick, hot passion of Another Country or the manipulative sexual conquests so prevalent in Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone. Just Above My Head links sexuality with love, stability, and healing. Crunch heals Julia's wounds from her incestuous relationship with her father by making love to her. He also helps Arthur by showing him that men, black men, can love each other. Crunch senses Arthur's need to be accepted and embraced for who and what he is. Their affair empowers Arthur:
Still, the step from this perception to articulation is not an easy one. He has faltered and turned back many times. And yet, he knows that, when he was happy with Crunch, he was neither guilty nor ashamed. He had felt a purity, a shining, joy, as though he had been, astoundingly, miraculously, blessed, and had feared neither Satan, man, nor God. He had not doubted for a moment that all love was holy.
But Arthur must be able to express this same blessed feeling in his musical career. Hall observes that Jimmy had this positive effect on Arthur's art: "Jimmy's presence in Arthur's life, Jimmy's love, altered Arthur's estimate of himself, gave him a joy and a freedom he had never known before, invested him with a kind of incandescent wonder, and he carried this light on stage with him, he moved his body differently since he knew that he was loved, loved, and therefore knew himself to be both bound and free."
African American male homosexuals have been shadowy figures in African American literature. They have been present but not always seen or acknowledged. By making the central character in Just Above My Head an openly gay man, Baldwin drops the veil of bisexuality that shrouded many of his previous protagonists. Although Hall implies that Arthur has had sexual relations with women, Arthur never makes such a claim. With Arthur, Baldwin argues for the acknowledgment of African American homosexuals as members of the African American community.
Although Dixon and Kendall Thomas argue that the James Baldwin who is remembered and canonized by some is one who is stripped of his homosexuality, Baldwin has been embraced by younger African American gay writers who were encouraged by his honest exploration of human sexuality in his work. Go The Way Your Blood Beats is a 1996 anthology of black gay fiction that takes its title from advice that Baldwin gave to young gay people in a Village Voice interview with Richard Goldstein (collected in James Baldwin: The Legacy, 1989). Joseph Beam, the late editor of In The Life: A Black Gay Anthology (1986), reflected in an essay for Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men (1991) on what Just Above My Head meant to him as a black, gay man: "In Just Above My Head, in plain view of the black family, it was possible for two black men to be lovers, and be political, and be cherished for who they were . . . Because he could envision us as lovers, our possibilities were endless."
James Baldwin died on 1 December 1987 of cancer of the esophagus in his home in St. Paul-de-Vence, France. His funeral service was held in the Harlem Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where he was eulogized by Maya Angelou , Amiri Baraka , and Toni Morrison . The appearance of the 1998 two-volume Library of America edition of Baldwin's fiction and nonfiction, edited by Morrison, is recognition of Baldwin's stature in American literature. Yet, this edition excludes Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone, If Beale Street Could Talk, and Just Above My Head; and these works cement Baldwin's vision of himself as a novelist. While the Library of America volumes represent a canonization of Baldwin's early fiction, all of his novels offer a potent appraisal of love and life in the second half of the twentieth century.
An archive of James Baldwin's papers is at the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.
FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR
- Richard Goldstein, "Go The Way Your Blood Beats: An Interview with James Baldwin," in James Baldwin: The Legacy, edited by Quincy Troupe (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989), pp. 173-185.
- Fred L. Standley and Louis H. Pratt, eds., Conversations with James Baldwin (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1989).
- Fern Marja Eckman, The Furious Passage of James Baldwin (New York: M. Evans, 1966).
- W. J. Weathersby, James Baldwin: Artist on Fire (New York: D. I. Fine, 1989).
- James Campbell, Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin (London: Faber & Faber, 1991; New York: Viking, 1991).
- David Leeming, James Baldwin: A Biography (New York: Knopf, 1994).
- Eve Auchincloss and Nancy Lynch, "Disturber of the Peace: James Baldwin," in The Black American Writer, edited by C. W. E. Bigsby, volume 1 (Baltimore: Penguin, 1969), pp. 199-215.
- Houston Baker, "The Embattled Craftsman: An Essay on James Baldwin," in Critical Essays on James Baldwin, edited by Fred L. Standley and Nancy V. Burt (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1988), pp. 62-77.
- Joseph Beam, "James Baldwin: Not a Bad Legacy, Brother," in Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men, edited by Essex Hemphill (Boston: Alyson, 1991).
- David Bergman, Gaiety Transfigured (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991).
- Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968).
- Melvin Dixon, Ride Out the Wilderness: Geography and Identity in Afro-American Literature (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987).
- William Farrison, "If Baldwin's Train Has Not Gone," in James Baldwin: A Critical Evaluation, edited by Therman O'Daniel (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1977), pp. 69-81.
- Susan Feldman, "Another Look at Another Country: Reconciling Baldwin's Racial and Sexual Politics," in Re-Viewing James Baldwin: Things Not Seen, edited by D. Quentin Miller (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000), pp. 88-104.
- Addison Gayle Jr., The Way of the New World: The Black Novel in America (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, 1975).
- Jean-Louis Goundard, The Racial Problem in the Works of Richard Wright and James Baldwin (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992).
- Trudier Harris, Black Women in the Fiction of James Baldwin ( Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985).
- Cora Kaplan, "'A Cavern Opened In My Mind': The Poetics of Homosexuality and The Politics of Masculinity in James Baldwin," in Representing Black Men, edited by Marcellus Blount and George P. Cunningham (New York: Routledge, 1996), pp. 27-54.
- Randall Kenan, James Baldwin (New York: Chelsea House, 1994).
- Edward Margolies, Native Sons: A Critical Study of Twentieth-Century Black American Authors (New York: Lippincott, 1968).
- Dwight McBride, ed. James Baldwin Now (New York: New York University Press, 1999).
- Bruce Morrow and Charles H. Rowell, eds. Shade: An Anthology of Fiction By Gay Men of African Descent (New York: Avon, 1996).
- Kevin Ohi, "'I'm Not The Boy You Want': Sexuality, 'Race,' and Thwarted Revelation in Baldwin's Another Country," African American Review, 33 (Summer 1999): 261-281.
- Barbara K. Olsen, "'Come-to-Jesus Stuff' in James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain and The Amen Corner," African American Review, 31 (Summer 1997): 295-301.
- Gayle Pemberton, "A Sentimental Journey: James Baldwin and the Thomas-Hill Hearings," in Race-ing Justice, En-Gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas and the Construction of Social Reality, edited by Toni Morrison (New York: Pantheon, 1992).
- Horace Porter, Stealing the Fire: The Art and Protest of James Baldwin (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1989).
- Shawn Stewart Ruff, ed. Go The Way Your Blood Beats: An Anthology of Lesbian and Gay Fiction By African American Writers (New York: Holt, 1996).
- Reginald Shepherd, "On Not Being White," in In The Life: A Black Gay Anthology, edited by Beam (Boston: Alyson, 1986), pp. 46-57.
- Andrew Shin and Barbara Judson, "Beneath the Black Aesthetic: James Baldwin's Primer of Black American Masculinity," African American Review, 32 (Summer 1998): 247-261.
- Kendall Thomas, "'Ain't Nothin' Like The Real Thing': Black Masculinity, Gay Sexuality, and the Jargon of Authenticity," in Representing Black Men, edited by Blount and Cunningham (New York: Routledge, 1996), pp. 55-69.
- Robert Tomlinson, "'Payin' one's dues': Expatriation as Personal Experience and Paradigm in the Works of James Baldwin," African American Review, 33 (Spring 1999): 135-148.
- Eleanor Traylor, "I Hear Music in the Air: James Baldwin's Just Above My Head," in Critical Essays on James Baldwin, edited by Fred L. Standley and Nancy V. Burt (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1988), pp. 217-223.