Contemporary African American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook

By Emmanuel S. Nelson | Go to book overview

JAMES BALDWIN

(1924–1987)

Emmanuel S. Nelson


BIOGRAPHY

The circumstances of James Baldwin’s birth were unremarkable. He was born on 2 August 1924 at Harlem Hospital in New York City to a poor, unmarried, twenty-year-old woman named Emma Berdis Jones. But his death sixty-three years later on 1 December 1987 at his home in southern France was an event reported on the front pages of newspapers around the world. Indeed, his journey from a difficult childhood in Harlem to his eventual status as a celebrity-artist with a large and loyal international audience constitutes one of the most compelling life stories of the twentieth century.

Baldwin’s early years were deeply troubled. Three years after his birth his mother married David Baldwin, many years her senior, who was a laborer and a fundamentalist Baptist minister. With him she had eight children. Her husband, meanwhile, grew increasingly angry, abusive, and violent; soon he began to terrorize his wife and children. James, presumably because he was a stepchild, became a favorite target for the elder Baldwin’s violent outbursts. This problematic relationship with his stepfather would haunt Baldwin for many years to come.

At age fourteen Baldwin underwent an experience of spiritual conversion—an experience vividly recreated in his first and explicitly autobiographical novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, and for the next three years he was a teenage minister who preached in evangelical churches in and around Harlem. He left the church at age seventeen, but the three years in the ministry were crucial to his personal and artistic development. Though he formally abandoned the pulpit when he was seventeen, he remained very much a preacher for the rest of his life. The language of the church—the biblical imagery and cadences, the grand rhetorical strategies of the African American pulpit oratory—left its unmistakable imprint

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Contemporary African American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction xv
  • Tina Mcelroy Ansa 1
  • Doris Jean Austin 6
  • James Baldwin 12
  • Toni Cade Bambara 22
  • Barry Beckham 29
  • Hal Bennett 36
  • David Henry Bradley, Jr 42
  • Gwendolyn Brooks 47
  • Cecil Morris Brown 53
  • Frank London Brown 58
  • Ed Bullins 64
  • Octavia E. Butler 69
  • Bebe Moore Campbell 76
  • Barbara Chase-Riboud 82
  • Alice Childress 88
  • Michelle Cliff 95
  • Cyrus Colter 102
  • Steven Corbin 108
  • Samuel Delany 115
  • William Demby 122
  • Melvin Dixon 129
  • Larry Duplechan 137
  • Ralph Waldo Ellison 142
  • Arthur R. Flowers 154
  • Leon Forrest 158
  • Albert French 164
  • Ernest J. Gaines 168
  • Marita Golden 177
  • Sam Greenlee 185
  • Bill Gunn 192
  • E. Lynn Harris 198
  • Chester B. Himes 203
  • Kristin Hunter 211
  • Blyden Jackson 215
  • Charles Johnson 220
  • Gayl Jones 227
  • June Jordan 233
  • William Melvin Kelley 238
  • Randall Kenan 243
  • John Oliver Killens 250
  • Jamaica Kincaid 260
  • Andrea Lee 267
  • Audrey Lee 273
  • Philip Lewis 279
  • Audre Lorde 284
  • Clarence Major 289
  • Paule Marshall 295
  • Sharon Bell Mathis 304
  • John A. Mccluskey, Jr 309
  • Reginald Mcknight 314
  • Terry Mcmillan 319
  • Louise Meriwether 327
  • Toni Morrison 331
  • Walter Mosley 350
  • Albert Murray 355
  • Walter Dean Myers 360
  • Gloria Naylor 366
  • Ann Petry 377
  • Carlene Hatcher Polite 384
  • Ishmael Reed 391
  • Jewell Parker Rhodes 401
  • Dori Sanders 407
  • Sapphire 411
  • Gil Scott-Heron 416
  • Ntozake Shange 421
  • Charlotte Watson Sherman 427
  • Ann Allen Shockley 433
  • April Sinclair 438
  • Ellease Southerland 443
  • Joyce Carol Thomas 449
  • Dawn Turner Trice 454
  • Alice Walker 458
  • Margaret Walker 469
  • Dorothy West 475
  • John Edgar Wideman 482
  • Sherley Anne Williams 491
  • Jacqueline Woodson 495
  • Sarah Elizabeth Wright 500
  • Frank Garvin Yerby 505
  • Selected 513
  • Index 515
  • About the Editor and Contributors 525
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