He Told It on the Mountain

"James Baldwin" Watercolor on paper. Copyright 2013 Totsymae

“James Baldwin” Watercolor on paper. Copyright 2013 Totsymae

I used to read James Baldwin in high school. I didn’t understand much about what I read but I did with time and age. I’d long before discovered other African-American writers in 7th grade. When I came upon them, because they weren’t introduced to me early on in school, I thought I came upon a gold mine.

Now, Baldwin was quite eloquent with language. I thought I was smart for reading his work. He was also the writer to challenge Maya Angelou to write her biography as literature. She met the challenge and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was born.

My aunt, whose husband was in the military, met Baldwin in Paris, where he relocated. He was downright tired of the racism in America and lived out his days in France. I don’t know if my aunt was at his apartment or where she was when she met him. I knew that must’ve been a treat for her because she was sharp and worked at the Library of Congress where folk register their titles.

If you think you might delve into Baldwins’ work, try If Beale Street Could Talk, which I found to be an easier read than his later works. You may also be interested in his essays. Folk who read essays are real smart, I think. I read them sometimes, therefore, I’m smart some of the time too.

I’m not sure when Baldwin appeared on this particular episode of Dave Cavett’s show. He was, however, speaking for the time. Not only was Mr Baldwin a novelist and essayist, he also wrote plays. One was entitled Go Tell It on the Mountain.

You can learn more about James Baldwin at Biography.com.