Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

African Americans in the LGBT Community

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James Baldwin (1924–1987) (Wikimedia Commons)

James Baldwin was one of the great literary artists of the twentieth century, and one of America's foremost public intellectuals. He was also one of the first American writers to make queer sexuality a central theme of his fiction. From Giovanni's Room (1956) to Another Country (1962), Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone (1968) to Just Above My Head (1979), Baldwin's novels illuminate the complexity of human sexuality and desire, as well as the deep imbrication of our categories of gender, sexuality, race, and natioFnality. In his late essays, Baldwin also wrote movingly about his own sexual coming-of-age, using his personal experience, as he often does in the essay, as text for collective reflection. He wrote in his 1984 essay, "Freaks and the American Ideal of Manhood" that "The idea of one's sexuality can only with great violence be divorced or distanced from the idea of the self." Baldwin's work continues to inspire new generations of artists and has been foundational in the formation of black queer studies.

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