James Baldwin, August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987

August 2 is the 90th anniversary of the birth of novelist, playwright and essayist James Baldwin. He was a friend and mentor to many icons in the creative and literary world, such as Maya Angelou, Marlon Brando and Ossie Davis.

He wrote with passion and depth, taking on social issues such as Christianity, homosexuality and civil rights at a time when it was very unpopular, even dangerous, to do so. In the face of that vulnerability, he moved to Paris and stayed there for most of his adult life. His advocacy for civil rights followed him overseas and he participated in many debates and spoke eloquently and frequently on the subject.

Baldwin’s literature has always been synonymous with the idea of curling up with a good book. When I read Go Tell It on the Mountain, I remember immediately seeking out the availability of a second novel and finding Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone. So many excellent writings are in his collection.

During the Harlem Renaissance, many African American authors whose creativity also flourished at this time influenced James Baldwin as he influenced them. Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Claude McKay, all great writers, were his peers and friends.

Chicago Public Library and the City of Chicago were proud to host Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain as the 2007 One Book One Chicago spring selection. All of Chicago was invited to read and appreciate this outstanding work of literature.

What is your favorite work by James Baldwin?