James Baldwin (1924-1987) was an African American novelist, playwright and social critic, best known for his essay collection Notes of a Native Son and his first novel Go Tell It on the Mountain. His work explores many themes of inequality in America, including the treatment of blacks and gays.
James Baldwin was born in New York City. He was raised by his mother and an abusive stepfather. In high school, he was the editor of the school literary magazine and attended The New School. An early religious conversion to Pentecostalism soon fell by the wayside, but religion continued to influence his work.
After he was introduced to Greenwich Village artist Beauford Delaney, Baldwin realized that an African American could be an artist, and devoted his life to writing. He also soon realized that he was gay. In 1948, he left the United States for Paris, France, seeking a culture that was less prejudiced. He spent most of the rest of his life living as an expatriate.
Baldwin returned to America in the late 1950s and early 1960s, becoming active in the Civil Rights Movement. He was active in both CORE and SNCC, and took part in the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. James Baldwin died from esophageal cancer in 1987 in his home in France and is buried just outside of New York City.