Known as one of the most controversial American writers, James Baldwin has been known to speak out on racism and civil rights throughout the 1950s. He is recognized as one of the finest writers in post World War II Literature. Although he spent most of his life in France, his works became very well known in the United States, as well as in Europe. He found readers of every race and nationality and revealed many truths about society. In many of his works Baldwin exposed racial and sexual topics about American.
society and challenged readers to confront and resolve these differences.
Born in Harlem, New York in 1924, Baldwin had a relatively unhappy childhood. He grew up under harsh and struggling conditions in a very poor part of town. James grew up as the first of nine children. He learned he was not only poor and black but the ugliest child his stepfather had ever seen, with a weak body and pop eyes. Because of his looks he was given the nickname frogeyes. To make it even worse, Baldwin was also left handed! .
Knowing he was ugly, Baldwin grew up very defensive about his appearance. He was always around drunks as well as many other groups with different ethnic backgrounds such as Finns, Jews, Poles, and West Indians.
James Baldwin grew up with his mother, Berdis Jones, and his stepfather, David Baldwin. His mother worked as a servant while his father preached at church ceremonies. David Baldwin was very enthusiastic about religion. He did not like James because of his ugliness and physical weakness. Because his stepfather did not pay much attention to the children, his mother provided most of the affection for the children. His mother had eight other children to care for and therefore she often went to work in the kitchen of white people. This left little time for her to spend with her first born, James. His stepfather was a strict disciplinarian who showed James little love.