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Pride Month: Recognizing James Baldwin

As we continue to celebrate Pride Month, we wanted to take some time to recognize some of the trailblazers who were instrumental in making the pride movement a key part of society. James Baldwin was an author and activist who spent his career talking about sexuality and race relations, to help people understand what pride was all about.

Baldwin was born in Harlem and spent most of his childhood in New York. He never knew his biological father, but he was the eldest of nine children and took being a big brother very seriously.

At a young age, Baldwin was interested in writing, and loved reading works by Charles Dickens. In 1943, he had just graduated high school, when he witnessed the Harlem Race riots. Being a black man in New York, he said many times that this gave him a greater perspective on the state of race and minorities in the United States.

In 1948, he received a fellowship to write his first novel, and decided to move to Paris where he felt more free to express himself. Baldwin said he left the United States because of the racism and homophobia he was experiencing.

In 1953, he published his first book Go Tell It on the Mountain, which was an autobiographical work about his life growing up in Harlem. However, one of his more famous works, Giovanni’s Room, was released in 1956. This book describes a man torn between his love for his wife, and his love for another man. At the time of publication, it was something that was not written about very often.

Baldwin published dozens of other works that tackled sexuality and racial issues, but nothing gained as much notoriety as his early novels. He also remained active in the civil rights movement, and even returned to the U.S. in the 1960s to take part in the movement.

Baldwin remained one of the strongest voices in the pride movement until his death in 1987 at age 63. He will be remembered as one of the most influential writers of the 20th Century, and his works are still in wide circulation today.