Celebrate life, works of James Baldwin


Most of the works by author James Bladwin explored racial and social issues and reflected on his experiences as a black man in white America. His books can be found at the Alachua County Library District.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 8:46 p.m.

The Alachua County Library District invites the community to "An Afternoon of James Baldwin (1924-1987)," a celebration of the life and works of the African-American writer, author, poet, playwright, essayist, social critic and one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

Facts

AUTHOR CELEBRATION

What: “An Afternoon of James Baldwin,” a celebration of his life and works.

When: 1:30 p.m. Friday.

Where: Alachua County Library Headquarters, 401 E. University Ave.

Information: Call 352-334-3909.

Baldwin is renowned for his exploration of racial and social issues and the reflections of his experiences as a black man in white America.

"It's quite timely to explore his work because the period of time and the issues he addressed in his writing are relevant to today's issues," said Dr. Patricia Hilliard-Nunn, professor of African American Studies at the University of Florida and the facilitator for the event, which will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Alachua County Library Headquarters at 401 E. University Ave.

Linda Cue, librarian for adult services at Library Headquarters, said "An Afternoon of James Baldwin," which is being held on what would have been his 89th birthday, will include readings from his works and discussions on the impact he continues to have on society.

Hilliard-Nunn said the program will include an overview of who he was, highlights of his life, and excerpts from his works. A prolific writer with a large body of work, Baldwin's best-known novel is his first, "Go Tell It on the Mountain," which was published in 1953 and explored the role of the church in the lives of African Americans.

Anita Jenkins, manager of Library Partnership, said "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and "Blues for Mister Charlie" are her favorite Baldwin works. "Go Tell It on the Mountain" is about morals, hypocrisy, inspiration and community, and "Blues for Mister Charlie" is about a young black man killed and tossed in the weeds," Jenkins said. "It shows where we've been and where we are and that we still have a long way to go."

Published in 1964, "Blues for Mister Charlie" is loosely based on the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American boy murdered in 1955 in Mississippi for allegedly flirting with a white woman.

"I feel young adults in today's society don't know anything about Baldwin," Jenkins said. "His writings are based in truth and it's something everyone can relate to."

Nunn said personally, she's interested in Baldwin's "The Devil Finds Work," a lengthy essay published in 1976 that critiques Hollywood and talks about racial politics in the cinema.

Cue said she likes "Just Above My Head," which was published in 1979 and is his last fiction novel. It covers 30 years in the lives of a group of friends who start out preaching in Harlem churches. Cue said the book is about race relations, sensuality and religion and his love of gospel music.

Cue said the purpose of the event is to reintroduce Baldwin's works.

"I hope it sparks an interest in his writings," Cue said. "His writings are relevant. I think young adults can learn a lot from his writings."

Hilliard-Nunn said Baldwin's works provide an interesting analysis of American and international racial, social and political relations.

"Most important is to encourage people to read and hopefully be inspired to write and tell their own story," Hilliard-Nunn said.

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