James Baldwin photographed by Allan Warren in 1969, standing smiling by a tree.

1924 – 1987

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

James Baldwin was an American novelist, playwright, poet and social critic. He was born in the New York City neighbourhood of Harlem, the first of nine children. James’s stepfather was very strict and was opposed to James’s desire to become a writer. But James was determined to pursue his dream, and he found support from a teacher and his idol, the author Richard Wright. He lived and worked in Europe from 1948 until 1957, and upon his return to the US, he became involved in the civil rights movement. James wrote about things that made many people uncomfortable, such as the struggles of black people in the US and the problems of the times, particularly racism. Some of his books also dealt with taboo themes, including homosexuality and interracial relationships.

Do you have the courage to speak up about and face difficult things in the pursuit of your goals and dreams?

Like Alan Turing, James Baldwin lived at a time when it was illegal to be homosexual. He did not allow this to stop him from writing about characters who were gay and bisexual. He marched alongside other African Americans, such as Martin Luther King Jr. during civil rights campaigns.

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