Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by WonderTeam. WonderTeam Wonders, “Who was James Baldwin?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, WonderTeam!
Have you ever dreamed of becoming a writer? Do you have a favorite poem, story, or book? Sometimes, a piece of literature just seems to speak to you. Today’s Wonder of the day is about an author whose writing moves many people. His name? James Baldwin!
James Baldwin was born in Harlem, New York, on August 2, 1924. The oldest of nine siblings, Baldwin grew up in a strict household. He was raised by his mother, Emma Jones, and his stepfather, David Baldwin, who was a Baptist preacher.
As a teenager, Baldwin followed in his stepfather’s footsteps. He was involved in church and even served as a youth minister for three years. However, Baldwin didn’t go on to pursue a career as a pastor. Instead, he turned to one of his other passions—writing.
Baldwin showed talent as a writer from a young age. It wasn’t until after the death of his father (1943), though, that he found himself truly driven to become an author. He moved to Greenwich Village in New York City. There, Baldwin began writing book reviews. He also befriended a successful writer named Richard Wright.
With Wright’s help, Baldwin earned a fellowship in 1948. This supported him financially while he wrote his first novel. That book, titled “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” was inspired by events in Baldwin’s life. It reflected many experiences he had growing up as a Black boy in America.
1948 brought another big change in Baldwin’s life. That year, he left the U.S. and moved to Paris, France. Far away from America, Baldwin found himself freer to reflect and write. Across the ocean, it was less dangerous to address the racial discrimination he had faced in his home country.
Living in France was a freeing experience for Baldwin in more ways than one. In addition to racism, he had also faced a great deal of discrimination in the U.S. about who he loved. In Paris, Baldwin found more acceptance regarding his relationships.
For these reasons, Baldwin continued to live outside of the U.S. for much of his life. Still, he did return for many visits and extended stays. He also began lasting friendships with other notable authors, including Maya Angelou. Most of Baldwin’s poems, novels, and essays dealt with the experience of being Black and LGBTQ+ in America.
Baldwin was also an outspoken supporter of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He even attended both the 1963 March on Washington and 1965 Selma to Montgomery March. Baldwin became friends with leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. He was heavily affected by their assassinations.
In 1987, James Baldwin died of stomach cancer. At the time, he was living in Saint-Paul de Vence, France. Today, he is remembered for his many impactful works of literature. A few examples are “Giovanni’s Room,” “Another Country,” and “Notes of a Native Son.”
Have you ever read a book by James Baldwin? Do you have a favorite author? If so, what is it about their writing that you enjoy? Spend some time learning about your favorite author with a friend or family member today.
Standards: C3.D2.Civ.13, C3.D2.Civ.14, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.W. 3, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.R.3, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.R.10, NCAS.A.1, NCAS.A.2, NCAS.A.3