James Baldwin

Essay by robstubs15College, UndergraduateB, March 2007

download word file, 5 pages 3.0

James Baldwin grew up as one of many sons from a poor African American family and was pressed to become a preacher like his father. Throughout his childhood, like most blacks, he suffered much prejudice because of his skin color. However, this only made him stronger. On the day of his father's funeral, he witnessed the great Harlem race riot. This act of violence and racial tension profoundly shaped his views and persona of the relationship between blacks and whites. He has therefore written about his analysis of whiteness in America. James Baldwin did not shift drastically from one text to another, but his texts over time went from less significant issues to more important ones. Also he uses three basic elements which are evident in all these works; they are autobiography, reporting, and analysis. His multiple approaches to the problems made each work fresh and challenged us to reexamine old assumptions and perspectives that yielded simple answers to complex problems.

In his essay "Stranger in the Village" (1955), James Baldwin writes about his experience in a small village in Switzerland. He points out that because he is black the villages find him fascinating and different. The naive villagers never saw a black man in the village before. They grew curious about his skin color, wondering if the black would ever rub off. The young children would be afraid of him because they were told a devil was a black man. Baldwin was regarded as a foreign find. All the while, Baldwin sees the situation between whites and blacks as different, but not in the sense that it is somehow without problems of its own. Instead of being regarded as an exotic find, Baldwin wants to be regarded as a human being. Under his mask, he is only...