Kobre & Kim Honors James Baldwin on Black History Month

February 25, 2022

In honor of Black History Month, Kobre & Kim is reflecting on the unique contributions made by African Americans both inside and outside the legal industry. Today, we celebrate James Baldwin, an essayist, playwright, novelist and powerful voice of the American civil rights movement. Baldwin is well known for works including Notes of a Native Son, The Fire Next Time and Go Tell It on the Mountain. Baldwin’s work pioneered discussing controversial topics for the time. As a gay Black man, much of his work focused on race, sexuality and masculinity.

James Baldwin was born and raised in Harlem, New York, where he developed his literary identity and passion for writing by exploring racial and social issues in many of his essays. Baldwin experienced racial terrorism as a young Black man growing up in segregated schools in New York City, and many of these experiences were used as the bases for his literary works. 

In 1953, Baldwin published his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, and from there he spent his career focused on experimental works centered on Black identity, sexuality and interracial romance. In 1955, Baldwin published his second novel, Giovanni’s Room, which caused great controversy at the time due to Baldwin’s focus on homosexuality and the intersection of race and sexuality. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, Baldwin’s work advanced the causes of civil rights for Black Americans, desegregation in the American education system and the efforts of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Congress of Racial Equality.  

Since his death in 1987, Baldwin’s reputation has endured and his work has been adapted into famous films, I Am Not Your Negro and If Beale Street Could Talk. Baldwin’s influence on Black writers and the civil rights movement is undeniable, even as his work and the seminal works of other authors of color are increasingly the focus of book bans across the country.