James Baldwin Annotated Bibliography
As I shall show in the paper that follows, a quest for family stability and the ability of self- expression through his gift of communication characterized James Baldwin’s childhood; as James Baldwin developed into an adult, he used his command of language and dedication to his craft to transfer his life’s experiences to the written page and bring his civil rights journey into his writings.
August 2, 1924 turned out to be a very eventful day at Harlem Hospital in Harlem, New York when soon to be renowned African American novelist, essayist, play right, poet, and civil rights activist was born fatherless to Emma Berdis Jones. This epic writer’s name was James Arthur Jones. Three short years after his birth, Emma Jones married David Baldwin a migrant a laborer and Pentecostal preacher. David Leeming informs us that James Baldwin was born into a very poverty stricken life filled with a stepfather with a very abrasive outlook on life (1) James Campbell notes that some of the early influences in young James Baldwin’s life were his stepfather, church, and his junior high and high school teachers. Baldwin remembers his father “locked-up in his terrors; hating and fearing every living soul including his children and his long silences punctuated by moans and hallelujahs and snatches of old songs while he sat at the kitchen window” (7).
W.J. Weathersby writes in his book James Baldwin, Artist on Fire, David used his fire and brimstone style of preaching to keep the Baldwin family under his his reign of terror. David used both physical abuse and mental abuse to control his family, but it was the mental abuse that had a more devastating effect on James Baldwin’s life. David often referred to young James as being “frog eyed” because his prominent eyeballs (7.)James felt portrayed with each of his mother’s pregnancies because once she left for the hospital James had no one to deflect his stepfather’s physical abuse and all out psychological warfare. During such times James quickly found a way to escape his disordered family life, especially his stepfather’s abrasiveness; literature (15). Anne Johnson notes that Baldwin often found himself reading book after book and sneaking away to attend movies and plays. It was during such events that James realized what the future held for him. He wanted more than anything to become a writer (15). Floyd C. Ferebee wrote that while attending junior high (PS 24) James found a way to offset his so called “ugliness”, knowledge. James fell in love with the attention and respect that he gained through his teachers. His teachers encouraged him to write and continued to push him towards the fine arts. James and his teachers became fond with one another and he found himself being taken under their wing. They taught him how to write and to be an upstanding citizen (Ferebee46, 47). The thirteen-year-old Baldwin’s skills and determination were the determining factor when he was chosen to be the editor of the school’s magazine, the Douglass Pilot. James was also selected to write an article about the history of Harlem in which he titled, “Harlem- Then and Now” under the periodical’s 1937 theme “The School and the Community,” which followed seventeenth century Harlem from the seventeenth the present. James the writer was just the opposite of James the meek. This article exuded with self-confidence and an innate command of the written language. This was just the beginning of Baldwin’s literary career. Paul Reuben informs us that after junior high James Baldwin went on to attend Dewitt Clinton High School where he joined forces with Richard Avedon (collaborator with James in 1964’s Nothing Personal and Emile Capouya, who eventually became the editor of the Nation and a publisher in New York, to write for the school paper the Magpie. James decided to shift his focus from writing to speaking, by...
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