(1924-1987), born in Harlem, was an important African American playwright, essayist, poet, and intellectual. However, his main cultural importance was as a novelist, and books such as Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), Giovanni's Room (1956), If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), and Just Above My Head (1979) helped to establish him as perhaps the most important African American novelist since Richard Wright, of whom Baldwin's view was harshly critical. In his fiction, his nonfiction, and his life, Baldwin, a gay black man, was an outspoken critic of discrimination based on race, gender, or other categories of social difference. Frustrated with the state of race and gender relations in his native country, he spent much of his life abroad, especially in France.
Shortly after Baldwin's death in 1987, Achebe wrote a tribute to him, which he delivered at a memorial service for Baldwin on December 16, 1987, at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where Baldwin had been a visiting professor. The tribute was published in Hopes and Impediments as “Postscript: James Baldwin (1924-1987).” In it, Achebe relates the inspirational impact of his first encounter, in Nigeria, with Go Tell It on the Mountain and of his first meeting with Baldwin himself, in 1980, at a conference in Gainesville, Florida, where the two writers reaffirmed the affinities between African and African American writers. Achebe sees Baldwin not only as a brilliant novelist but also as an important crusader for human rights and justice. As long as discrimination of any kind persists, suggests Achebe, “the words of James Baldwin will be there to bear witness and to inspire and elevate the struggle for human freedom” (176).
M. Keith Booker
, a small, private, progressive, co-educational liberal arts college in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, ninety miles north of New York City. Founded in 1860 as St. Stephen's College for men in affiliation with the Episcopal Church, the school was initially oriented toward preparing its students to enter the seminary. Beginning in 1919, the school broadened and secularized its curriculum, and it became an undergraduate college of Columbia University in 1928. The school was rechartered as