JAMES BALDWIN, American author, born (d. 1987); One of the most important social commentators in the United States, most of Baldwin’s work deals with racial and sexual issues in the mid-20th century in the U.S.. His novels are notable for the personal way in which they explore questions of identity as well as the way in which they mine complex social and psychological pressures related to being black and gay well before the social, cultural or political equality of these groups was improved.
One source of support came from an admired older writer Richard Wright, whom he called “the greatest black writer in the world.” Wright and Baldwin became friends for a short time and Wright helped him to secure the Eugene F. Saxon Memorial Award. Baldwin titled a collection of essays Notes Of A Native Son, in clear reference to Wright’s novel Native Son. However, Baldwin’s 1949 essay “Everybody’s Protest Novel” ended the two authors’ friendship because Baldwin asserted that Wright’s novel Native Son, like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin lacked credible characters and psychological complexity. However, during an interview with Julius Lester. Baldwin explained that his adoration for Wright remained: “I knew Richard and I loved him. I was not attacking him; I was trying to clarify something for myself.”
This was also the year he met and fell in love with Lucien Happersberger. The boy was a seventeen-year-old runaway, and the two became very close, until Happersberger’s marriage three years later, an event that left Baldwin devastated.