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James Baldwin

             We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only forces that can change it.
             James Baldwin was born in Harlem on August 2, 1924. Shortly after his birth his mother married David Baldwin, a factory worker and Pentecostal minister. Baldwin was the eldest of nine children. Because of his troubled relationship with his strict stepfather, Baldwin turned to reading as a way to escape. Baldwin says little about his childhood, commenting only that "it is the usual bleak fantasy, and we can dismiss it with the unrestrained observation that I certainly would not consider living it again" (http://www.oceanrush.com/baldwin.html, pg. 1).
             During his years at Frederick Douglas Junior High School, Baldwin edited the school paper and belonged to a literary club. It was at this time that he came to know Countee Cullen, a faculty member of school who had been one of the writers of the Harlem Renaissance. At 14, his literary career was challenged by a new vocation when he became a junior minister at a Harlem storefront church, drawing crowds bigger than his stepfather's. Three years later he decided to leave the church. After graduating from De Witt Clinton High School in 1942, Baldwin worked at a variety of jobs, including waiting tables and working as a railroad hand in New Jersey. "After the death of his stepfather, he returned to New York where he settled in Greenwich Village, and was determined to concentrate on his writing" (World Book Encyclopedia, pg. 31).
             Baldwin's interests went from being an activist in the civil rights movement, to book reviewer and essayist for New York periodicals, to international celebration as literary artist. Baldwin believed that racism stemmed from the insecurities of white men, who turned to the blacks as scapegoats for their own internal feelings of powerlessness. Through his works, Baldwin's arguments for civil rights transcend colour boundaries and stress the idea that "regardless of race or culture, we are all human beings, and should be treated as such" (http://www.

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