We celebrate the 95th birth anniversary of one of America’s most prolific and gifted souls, James Baldwin, on August 2. The novelist, playwright and activist's profound works still resonate today. I was introduced to Baldwin back in Mrs. Harrison’s seventh-grade class when we were assigned Black Voices to read as a yearlong black literature project. Here are my top picks for James Baldwin, thanks to Mrs. Harrison, wherever you are!
Go Tell It on the Mountain: Baldwin's very best, this is a semiautobiographical tale of his troubled upbringing, and perhaps a window into his soul. (We explored this book as our spring 2007 One Book, One Chicago selection.)
If Beale Street Could Talk: Baldwin gives us a love story of tragic proportions with all the plot twists and turns that one could expect from the oft-mercurial Baldwin.
The Devil Finds Work: This one is probably my favorite Baldwin piece, a seemingly scathing expose and critical examination of modern film.
The Amen Corner: Baldwin turns playwright in this brilliant play about faith, family and the black church.
I Am Not Your Negro: This film is a must-see for Baldwin bibliophiles. It's the culmination of many of his works and his unfinished manuscript Remember This House. You can see at our Film Screening: I Am Not Your Negro on August 2 Harold Washington Library Center—a timely birthday celebration of this literary gem!