James Baldwin (August 2, 1924 - December 1, 1987) was an African-American novelist and essayist, probably best known for his novel Go Tell it on the Mountain. Most of Baldwin's work deals with racial and sexual issues in the United States and most of his work is influenced by his homosexuality.
Baldwin's stepfather, David Baldwin, was a factory worker and a store-front preacher; James was the first of nine children. David was a very cruel person at home, which the young James hated. His father opposed the young Baldwin's literary aspirations but he found support from a very nice white teacher as well as the mayor of New York City Fiorello H. LaGuardia. His most important support came from his idol Richard Wright, whom he had called "the greatest black writer in the world for me". Wright helped him to secure the Eugene F. Saxon Memorial Award. Wright and Baldwin became friends for a short time, and Baldwin titled a collection of essays Notes of a Native Son, in clear reference to Wright's enraged and despairing novel Native Son. However, Balwin's essay "Everybody's Protest Novel" in 1949 ended the two author's friendship because Balwin asserted that Wright's novel Native Son īlike Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin lacked credible characters and psychological complexity.
Baldwin, like many American authors of the time, left to live in Europe for an extended period of time beginning in 1948. His first destination was of course Paris where he followed in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Richard Wright, and many others.