Searching for James Baldwin

James Baldwin Photo
When we were putting together WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE WHITE IN AMERICA, an amazing thing happened: Many of the contributors quoted James Baldwin, and as a result, we followed their cue and not only dedicated the book to Baldwin, but sprinkled Baldwin quotes throughout the book.

There is no doubt that James Baldwin always remained a quintessentially American writer, but when we talk about race and social justice, his is the first person to come to mind.

James Baldwin on the Artist’s Struggle for Integrity and How It Illuminates the Universal Experience of What It Means to Be Human


“The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself,” e.e. cummings wrote in his wonderful forgotten meditation on what he called “the agony of the Artist (with capital A). No artist — whatever the case — has captured both the agony and the rewards of that unlearning more beautifully than James Baldwin (August 2, 1924–December 1, 1987).

In the fall of 1962, shortly after he penned his timelessly terrific essay on the creative process, Baldwin gave a talk at New York City’s Community Church, which was broadcast on WBAI on November 29 under the title “The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity” — one of the most insightful and rousing reflections on the creative life I’ve ever encountered, later included in the altogether magnificent Baldwin anthology The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings (public library).>>READ MORE