“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist”

–James Baldwin

 

James Baldwin was a writer, social activist and critic during the 1960s United States when racial prejudices against African-Americans deeply pervaded the American society. His social commentary and articulation of the problems that plagued America remain unprecedented in history, as the world continues to read and resonate with his work even today.

His essays focused on the African-American experience in the United States, as he wrote about their struggles and his relationship with his own country that rejected him on the basis of his race and origin. This caused him to move to Paris for a brief period of time in 1948, giving himself an opportunity to separate himself from the environment that he wanted to write about and critique, as he said: “Once I found myself on the other side of the ocean, I see where I came from very clearly..I am the grandson of a slave, and I am a writer.” During his time in Paris, he wrote some of his most well-known works such as ‘Giovanni’s Room’, ‘Notes of a Native Son’ and ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’. Soon after, he returned to the United States in 1957 and immediately become a front-line activist in the civil rights movement that enveloped America at the time. A series of books that he wrote during the time explored the relations between African-American and white people in the US, and highlighted racial oppression. Baldwin did not only comment on racial issues, but explored many other prejudices that cut across class and gender lines, including homosexuality in the United States.

James Baldwin’s insight into the black experience within the United States continues to remain relevant even today, as racial prejudices plague the American society at large. Instances of racial oppression, particularly police violence against the African-American citizens is widely documented and debated within the country. Moreover, with white supremacy slowly gaining traction in the United States, what Baldwin wrote about racial relationalities within the United States continues to resonate with the oppressed.