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4 Must-See Interviews With James Baldwin That Will Change Your Life

4 Must-See Interviews With James Baldwin That Will Change Your Life

The insight and wisdom live on forever. 

A son of Harlem, James Baldwin was born in 1924 and was the oldest of nine children, PBS reports. He had a contentious relationship with his strict, religious stepfather, and at the beginning of his teen years, looked to follow in his footsteps as a preacher. Baldwin credits that time as pivotal in his life, the renowned author finding solace and belonging in writing.

“Those three years in the pulpit - I didn’t realize it then - that is what turned me into a writer, really, dealing with all that anguish and that despair and that beauty,” Baldwin once said. 

The day Baldwin decided to leave the pulpit, he knew he also had to leave the home, taking a job working for the New Jersey railroad when he was just 18. He eventually moved to Greenwich Village, working as a freelance writer on book reviews. His work caught the attention of novelist Richard Wright who helped him get a grant to support himself as a writer. 



In 1948, Baldwin moved to Paris, continuing his work and establishing himself as a preeminent voice on Black life. In 1953, he published his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, an autobiography about his time growing up in Harlem. The book shifted the landscape, and no other contemporary work about Black life up to that point had been more profound. Throughout the next decade, Baldwin moved about the globe from Paris to New York to Istanbul. He published a number of books and novels, writing essays about racial tension and taboo themes like homosexuality and interracial relationships. Baldwin’s literature was not only timely, but it was also thought-provoking, with many of his books becoming instant bestsellers. 

Baldwin said it was his living abroad that gave him the perspective needed to speak about Black life from a birds-eye view.

“Once you find yourself in another civilization, you’re forced to examine your own,” said Baldwin. 

During the 1960s, Baldwin felt a sense of urgency and responsibility, returning to the states to support the civil rights movement. There, he used his time to create work that explored the racial struggle and discussed Black identity, TIME magazine eventually putting Baldwin on their cover. His call for equality was one that touched the souls of many, and he became a leading voice in the civil rights movement. After the assassinations of his friends Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X, he returned to France where he continued giving voice to the psychology and duplicity of Black life. Later in life, Baldwin began teaching to connect with the younger generation, passing away from stomach cancer in 1987 at the age of 63. 




Today, Baldwin’s voice lingers still and his timeless literary works like Notes of a Native Son (1955), Nobody Knows My Name (1961), Giovanni’s Room (1956), Another Country (1962), The Fire Next Time (1963), and If Beale Street Could Talk (1974) encapsulate universal truths that still ring true. With the advent of social media, many of Baldwin’s interviews are also available online for regular viewing, providing insight into Baldwin’s theology and views on the world. As the struggle for equality and Black liberation continues, we took some time to revisit Baldwin’s work. Below are 4 must-see interviews with James Baldwin that will change your life, courtesy of NewsOne.


Who is the Nigger? (1963)


James Baldwin and America’s “Racial Problem” (1969)


James Baldwin Interview with Kenneth Clark (1963)




James Baldwin Debates William F. Buckley (1963)





Long live Baldwin!

4 must-see interviews with James Baldwin that will change your life. Photo Courtesy of Ted Thai/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty