James Baldwin’s Papers: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture



One of the most prominent and greatest writers of the 20th century was James Baldwin. He broke the then new literary ground through the exploration of social and racial issues in his several works. He was particularly known for his essays and works of literature on the Black’s society and the experience by African-Americans. Mr. James Baldwin was a prominent playwright, writer/author, and civil activist, born on 2nd August 1924, in Harlem- New York, by a single mother Miss. Emma Jones. Later on, Jones got married to a Baptist Minister- David Baldwin when James was merely 3 years old. Regardless of the strained relationship, James followed the footsteps of his stepfather, who he commonly referred to as his father by his early teens.

At an early age, James had already developed the passion for reading and writing. He attended his high-school studies and DeWitt Clinton School at Bronx where he worked a photographer and editor of the school magazine. In the school magazine, he published several poems, plays, and short stories, which proved his love and understanding of the literary works. Upon his 1942 high school graduation, James wanted to join a college but could not get enough financial support from his family. Afterwards, he had no option but to take odd jobs in order to keep himself going. During this hard time of his life, he frequently encountered discriminations due to his racial origin, including being turned away from bars, restaurants, and other workplaces.

After the death of his father in 1943, Baldwin ensued his writing work and took it seriously to help him cover his expenses. He started getting his short stories and essays published in national periodicals such as the “Nation Partisan Review and Commentary.” With time, he dramatically progressed and succeded in his writing work, thereby becoming a prominent author of racial, social, and political stories.

Recently, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library acquired personal archives of Mr. Baldwin James. His archives were found to include thirty linear feet of manuscripts and letters, alongside drafts of novels, essays, and other literary works. Mr. Baldwin’s archive also included screenplays and galleys with handwritten notes, photographs, as well as other media forms that documented his life and creative works. Affirmatively, some of the other authors with remarkable output through contributing to the Schomburg Center’s collections include Maya Angelou, Lorraine Hansberry, and Malcolm X, all of whom were Mr. Baldwin’s colleagues. As such, his papers are not only complementary to their works but also present to the researchers a fascinating view of the Black Power movements and Civil Rights.

As affirmed by the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture for the new acquisition- Mr. Kevin Young, the library leadership team were more than excited to have Mr. Baldwin return home to Harlem. He further said that James Baldwin’s incredible collection would add to their ever-growing holdings of writers, cultural icons, artists, and political figures across the African diaspora. Through this resurgence of interest in Baldwin’s works and words, and though the renovations of the library’s spaces from the main gallery to the Schomburg Shop, the timing would be better for Mr. Baldwin to join the team at the Schomburg Center.

Read more of the original story via: https://goodblacknews.org/2017/04/17/schomburg-center-for-research-in-black-culture-acquires-james-baldwin-papers/

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