James Arthur Baldwin’s exposure since birth was his weapon that made the America wonder. From his life in Harlem, his experiences in New Jersey, and in Paris, he contributed renowned poetry, essays, novels, screenplay, plays, and book collections. Journals such as Partisan Review, The Nation and Commentary published his early works. Criticisms and complements had both built a reputation that made Baldwin a respected and influential man of American literature. He received commendations with his novel, Go Tell it to the Mountain, written in 1953. This, and the succeeding writing of Baldwin, focused on his personal encounters in life—his homosexuality, social issues concerning the African-Americans, and his critical reviews about the works of the people of that time. Notes of a Native Son was published in 1955 as a compiled book of his prior writings.
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Sol Stein, an editor in Beacon Press, a comrade, had helped in bringing Notes of a Native Son into the world. This book was a depiction of Baldwin’s community—racism, slavery, identity crisis, sexual preference, violence, underemployment, rage, and Harlem before the civil rights’ period. The hysteria conveyed psychological effects that made it more difficult for any African-American to live on that time. James Baldwin was born as an illegitimate child to a father he never met. His stepfather, David Baldwin, a common worker and a preacher, although honed as a cruel father, paranoid, and angry. Baldwin’s life in New Jersey had only brought him to troublesome adventures--hurling with the same sex, at the same time he was involved with a white girl, and struggling to be employed in different jobs to support his family. Baldwin grew up in a community where blacks were always treated unfairly by the society and the white Americans who acted superior to them. Harlem, just like other African-American communities, was ruled by the arrogance of those in power, causing Harlem to be a place similarly under the harsh effects of martial law.
James Baldwin’s revealing statements about his stepfather, David Baldwin, from New Orleans, was married to Emma Burdis Jones in 1927. To James Baldwin, David was an abusive father who hated and feared just about anybody else, as well as his own family. He was a religious freak, too. He was diagnosed to have a mental disorder. Although he illustrated a mixture of everything, James Baldwin was able to escape from a transference that could have ruined his future.
Back in the New Orleans where David Baldwin originated, he was a witness of living as a negro enslaved by the white Americans he had learned to hate and fear at the same time. He suffered from repression that later made him to be domineering and abusive. What he had gone through as an oppressed individual, he bestowed it to his family. He went on humiliating his wife, treated her with such dislike. David Baldwin‘s life was a paradigm of the psychological effects of racism. What he was in the north was the reflection of his life in New Orleans. Only, this time he was the one in power. He had gathered all of his suppressed strength to use it in harmful ways. David Baldwin died in a mental institution, at the time his youngest child was brought into life.
James came to realize what his stepfather had gone through. The effects of racial discrimination had led the old Baldwin to lose his sanity. He was the very exact example of what James Baldwin was trying to point out in his writings. Discrimination can is fatal to one’s life. This was also the reason why the eldest son left his father’s house to escape from his unkindness, and went back only for the funeral. James Baldwin took care of his family after his stepfather’s death, and suffered more from the eyes of the white Americans.
Born as James Arthur Jones in 2 August 1924, he did not have a childhood he can be proud of. His mother Emma did not divulge any information about his biological father. He grew up claiming David Baldwin as his father until he was thirteen years old that he discovered his real identity. All the more, Baldwin’s life in New Jersey brought more confusion. He came to final a piece of himself, in 1940s, when he went there for a defence work at Belle Meade, where he was beaten up. In New Jersey, James Baldwin discovered his sexual preference. He was a homosexual struggling for the acceptance. On the other hand, James found interest in movies. The first movie he had ever seen was a film Bette Davis, followed by The Exorcist, The Defiant Ones, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. These movies joined in Baldwin’s past time to voice out his criticisms of the racial politics in American films. One time he went to a restaurant, but was denied for a service. He was thrown out, and was told that he did not belong to such a place. These experiences had made Baldwin leave for Europe to find freedom and continue writing.
Upon Baldwin’s return to New York, his thoughts of justice for the African-Americans led him to be a social activist. He decided to join with Martin Luther King, Jr., Medger Evers and those others who headed the Civil Right Movement. It went on between the 1950s and 1960s. Through these years he was able to write essays to expose what was happening between the black and the white Americans. Baldwin made a mark by being the voice of his community. He stood by as a black writer, a good one, which he dreamed to be.
Learning that racism in was not an isolated case for the African-Americans, James Baldwin fought hard for his fellowmen. The effect of the decline in employment opportunities had led the Harlemites to work in the defense plant like him, and others in military camp. Many left their families to find work in the opposite side of America. Abuse was everywhere. Other cultural groups replaced the businesses of the blacks. The entertainment industry, of which gave the Harlemites decent jobs from entertaining the whites deteriorated when riots in Harlem scared them off.
Such things happen all over the world. Harlem stood as the model of a suppressed community. Crimes happened every now and then. There is always a Harlem in every corner of the world. People suffered from rejection, receiving no decent jobs or place to settle. Riots were the only thing they may have the chance to get what they need, to be heard, to be seen. The race riot that took place in his stepfather’s funeral made Baldwin remember his racial background, his stepfather’s memories, and the situations that reflected the lives of the African-Americans.
James Baldwin was one of the many others who struggled to fight for the freedom the African-Americans had long been waiting to have. His boldness opened the eyes of the society. His essays served as a mirror in which the white Americans were afraid to look at. The power and supremacy of the white Americans put the blacks in rags. This has to stop, and at the time of James Baldwin, he had served as an important instrument of freedom and equality.
Oppression did not only happen before, neither in America alone. Racism is rampant all over the world. James Baldwin’s works of art was a helpful instrument in understanding the effects of racism and the consequences it brings. These consequences mean mayhem to billions of lives. The effects of oppression to anyone can trigger history in repeating its own unless someone stands up to end it. What had happened to David Baldwin and his becoming an oppressor is a cliché. Unless racism is condemned, David Baldwin will remain alive in any part of the world. If this happens, the world will need at least a billion James Baldwin and his comrades to stop oppression.
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