James Baldwin (1924-1987), born in Harlem near the height of its New Negro renaissance, died in St.-Paul-de-Vence in the south of France, the adopted home from which he reflected on his major part in the U.S. civil rights movement. An inexhaustible public witness and the author of plays, essays, novels, and short stories, he ranks with the most daring and eloquent African American voices of the twentieth century. His first novel, the autobiographical Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), wrestled with the heritage of black Christianity and joined Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) in a dramatic break from Richard Wright’s social realism. His second novel, Giovanni’s Room (1956), set in Paris and peopled with non-black characters, explored the complexity of same-sex desire years before the Stonewall riots announced the gay rights movement. His lush and searching essays, many dissecting the American way of race, sex, and democracy, are his most acclaimed works. Notes of a Native Son (1955), his earliest essay collection, has been included on the Modern Library’s list of the top twenty nonfiction books of the twentieth century. Another collection, the bestselling The Fire Next Time (1963), is a classic of the civil rights movement. After 1948, Baldwin lived mainly in Europe but remained tied to events in the U.S. thanks in part to the FBI. Spanning sixteen years (1958-1974) and 1,884 pages, Baldwin’s Bureau file is among the most exhaustive of the civil rights and Black Power eras. In it, FBI ghostreaders document Baldwin’s international travels, his sexual and political affinities, and his literary output, noting the purchase of many of his titles for the headquarters library. Baldwin in turn took a keen interest in the FBI, promising to blast J. Edgar Hoover “to the wall” in a never-finished exposé titled The Blood Counters.
FBI documents studying James Baldwin.
Material is in the public domain.
text, 1,884 PDFs, 400 ppi