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April 22, 2014

James Baldwin
James Baldwin

Admirers to Write a New Chapter in Novelist James Baldwin’s Legacy by Honoring Him

Writing

by Frederick H. Lowe
New York Live Arts, a consortium of cultural organizations based in the city, has declared 2014-2015 The Year of James Baldwin.

Baldwin, a novelist who wrote about gay men before it was fashionable or accepted, was also a poet, a playwright and a civil rights activist.

He was born on Aug. 2, 1924, in Harlem, where he would later become a child preacher, according to his 1994 biography "James Baldwin" by David Leeming. He would have celebrated his 90th birthday in August. Baldwin died Dec. 1, 1987.

This year's celebration is titled "Baldwin, This Time." It includes 20 events spread over five days, culminating in the spring of 2015, with an event in Harlem. The first events will launch April 23rd to the 27th.

Although Baldwin was born in Harlem, he hung out and lived in Greenwich Village before moving to Paris, carrying with him only $100 and a duffle bag of clothes because he believed he could become a famous writer.

A French publisher who considered Baldwin a hot young writer was waiting for him.

When his first novel "Go Tell It on the Mountain" was published in 1953, his friends wanted to celebrate, but Baldwin did not have enough money to get his only suit from the cleaners so he borrowed one from a friend.  His second novel, "Giovanni's Room," published in 1956, was both ground-breaking and controversial because of its explicit homosexual content.

Two of of his other novels are "Another Country" and "Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone." His most-famous essay, which was later made into a book was "The Fire Next Time." He wrote and published 19 novels and volumes of collected essays.

Baldwin was closely associated with Paris and the South of France, but he also lived in Istanbul and in Sweden.

He was also writer in residence at Bowling Green University in 1978. Baldwin returned to the Bowling Green, Ohio, campus in 1979 as a distinguished visiting professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies.

"Events throughout the city will celebrate this often overlooked American writer who is arguably the most profound and imperative voice of the twentieth century," said a spokesperson for New York Live Arts.

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