James Baldwin's Struggle To Change The World

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Author James Baldwin once said, “You write in order to change the world . . . if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it” (Banks). Baldwin himself kept this attitude throughout his life, dedicating it and his work to changing the world. He struggled with his identity, sexuality, family life, and origin, but learned to embrace these challenges through writing. As a prominent black writer of the 1950s and 60s, he established a legacy that lives on in our current American society by exposing black and white Americans of his time to the realities of racism. Early experiences of discrimination and loss, eventual acceptance of his identity, and influence from other intellectuals of his time inspired…show more content…
At Public School 24 in Harlem, Baldwin’s Caucasian drama instructor Orilla Miller assisted his family financially, demonstrating to young James the superior lifestyles and opportunities of whites in America (“James Baldwin Biography”, Rosset 26). Baldwin also had more volatile and direct experiences with racism - when he was only ten years old, two police officers harassed and beat him, calling him offensive racial slurs (Rosset 26-27). A few years later, in 1938, he joined the ministry and was “overcome with a sense of wonder and power in the art of the rhetoric,” which gave him the power to defy his controlling stepfather (“James Baldwin Biography”). However, the racism and hypocrisy within the ministry soon destroyed his faith, and he left after only two years, at the age of sixteen (“James Baldwin Biography”). These experiences played an important role in Baldwin’s future, as they laid the foundation for the eloquence and style of his powerful essays. At Frederick Douglass Junior High School, his desire to become a writer grew with the influence of the school faculty, which included writers Countee Cullen and Herman Porter (Rosset 30-34). Baldwin was enchanted by Cullen’s warmth and openness, and soon viewed him as a father figure to compensate for the lacking…show more content…
His first major works, Go Tell It on the Mountain and The Amen Corner, represented acceptance of his Negro roots and celebration of black family life (“James Baldwin”). The series of essays that followed were more focused on the “provincial problems of ‘white versus black,’” as seen in his essay “The Fire Next Time” (Gale). This essay warned whites about the violence spurred by black anger, effectively contributing to the momentum of the Civil Rights Movement (Gale). His novel Giovanni’s Room was said to transcend “false categories of color and gender,” reflecting his other theme of personal identity that was stimulated by his own discovery and acceptance of his homosexuality (“James Baldwin”). Bringing these two themes together was his “Notes on a Native Son,” a collection of essays that included both confrontation of personal identity and insights on racial conflicts (Rosset 78). Elements of these subject matters remained present throughout most of Baldwin’s works, informing readers about the reality of America and helping them accept their
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