Remembering James Baldwin: Race, Sexuality & Bearing Witness to the Truth (VIDEO)

On August 2nd, James Baldwin would have turned 90. Watch a video about the author who captured the black experience and held an unflinching mirror to America through his work.
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On August 2nd, James Baldwin would have turned 90. Watch a video about the author who captured the black experience and held an unflinching mirror to America through his work.
Gap-Toothed Grinners: American writer and Civil Rights activist James Baldwin (1924 - 1987) at the Whitehall Hotel, Bloomsbury Square, London.   (Photo by Jenkins/Getty Images)

American writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin broke new literary ground with the exploration of racial and social issues in his many works. (Photo by Jenkins/Getty Images)

On August 2, 1924, James Baldwin was born an outsider looking into America. African-American and gay, he struggled to find his place and as child found comfort and escape in books. Although he spent his early years as teen in Harlem preaching in the Pentecostal Church like his minister father, his true calling was the written word. 

At DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, he worked on the school's magazine (with future famous photographer Richard Avedon.) A move to the artistic community in Greenwich Village as a young adult furthered his literary aspirations as did his friendship with Richard Wright, author of Native Son and Black Boy. But it was his move to Paris in 1948 that gave him the artistic freedom to write novels including Go Tell It on the Mountain, a semi-autobiographical tale about the black experience, and Giovanni’s Room, one of the first novels to deal with homosexuality, that put him on the literary map.

With his success, Baldwin became an eloquent voice for activists during the Civil Rights Movement, however, he said he never wanted to be a spokesperson, rather fulfill his personal mission to bear "witness to the truth." America read the truth in his best-selling novels and through his writing he helped shift perceptions of the racial and socials issue of his time. 

To celebrate what would have been Baldwin's 90th birthday tomorrow, watch a mini bio about his life: