James Baldwin: 10 insightful quotes on his birthday

Novelist and playwright James Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924, in Harlem, N.Y., to single mother Emma Jones. Emma married Baptist minister David Baldwin when Baldwin was three years old. Although the two had a strained relationship, as a teenager, Baldwin seemed to be following after his stepfather, serving as a minister in Harlem Pentecostal church. In high school Baldwin developed a love for reading and writing. He published a number of poems and short stories in his high school magazine. However, when he graduated in 1942, Baldwin was not able to continue on to college because he needed to work to support his family of eight younger siblings. It was in the working world where Baldwin came across a great amount of discrimination because he was black, and, as a result, he struggled to support himself for many years. After his stepfather died, Baldwin relocated to Greenwich Village where he became part of a budding art scene in order to start his own writing. A few years later, Baldwin moved to Paris, and this new location finally allowed him to write about his own personal experiences as they related to race. Baldwin published his first novel, "Go Tell It in the Mountain," in 1953, which dealt with the most difficult issues he had faced in his life from his race to his relationship with his stepfather. Baldwin is perhaps most recognized for his essays, “Notes of a Native Son” (1955) and “Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son” (1961). Baldwin saw his writing as a bearing “witness to the truth;” many would agree that the body of his work does indeed share truths not many others would dare to speak, much less put into writing.  

1. Hatred's self-destruction

Photo: public domain

"Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law."

1 of 10
of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.