To say that author James Arthur Baldwin was "komplicated" would almost be an understatement. An iconoclast who worked and wrote passionately about issues of race, religion and sexuality, Baldwin was an outcast amongst outcasts, but never backed down and wrote with such eloquence and such power that it has allowed his legacy to continue on after his 1987 death.
Go Tell It on the Mountain. Notes of a Native Son. Giovanni's Room. The Fire Next Time. Baldwin's work in experimental forms of prose and in politics left him with some interesting adversaries. The Black Panther Party's Eldridge Cleaver used his book Soul on Ice to launch a homophobic attack on Baldwin. The writer told The Honorable Elijah Muhammad that beliefs about "white devils" were "absurd." Baldwin also renounced his Christian beliefs at age 17 after becoming a Pentecostal preacher at 14 and enduring a tumultuous relationship with his adoptive father David Baldwin, a preacher himself as well.
Most people know him for his work from The Fire Next Time, especially a lengthy essay caleld "Down at the Cross" which was originally published in two oversized issues of The New Yorker and which had content so perfectly encapsulating the unrest and outrage of the 1960s that it landed him on the cover of Time magazine.
Not just content to stay behind a typewriter, Baldwin's activism with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) led him to enjoy personal friendships with Medgar Evars, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He went on lecture tours of the south as well as meeting with attorney general Robert F. Kennedy alongside prominent figures like Lorraine Hansberry and Harry Belafonte.
An expatriate, Baldwin died in France of stomach cancer. We appreciate and respect his kujichagulia-styled example of deciding who he would be and never backing down from it. In the words of our Egyptain forebears, anedge hirak James Baldwin, and thank you.
[Source: Wikipedia with special thanks to Savas Abadsidis]