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PHOTO ESSAY

Twentieth Century Literary Giants

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James Baldwin

Courtesy of Library of Congress

James Baldwin began his literary career in earnest after Richard Wright helped him to win a Eugene F. Saxon Fellowship that allowed him to free himself from a series of odd jobs and devote himself to writing full time. Although publishers rejected his first novel, he successfully produced enough book reviews and essays to begin to build himself a literary reputation. That reputation was cemented after the publication of Go Tell It On the Mountain (1951), an autobiographical novel inspired by Baldwin's troubled childhood. Baldwin's subsequent works followed suit, drawing upon his homosexuality, racial and familial struggles, liberal politics, and expatiratism. Like Wright, frustration with American racism and the search for inspiration drew Baldwin to France, though he maintained an active interest in the civil rights movement and other political issues of a homeland he viewed as troubled but still filled with potential.

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