James Baldwin

University of South Carolina Press

More than thirty years after his death, James Baldwin is recapturing the American imagination in politics and popular culture. Black Lives Matter, “Moonlight,” “Between the World and Me,” and Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” all resurrect Baldwin’s voice. The major themes of his writing are also evident throughout today’s headlines: police malfeasance, expansive sexuality, class struggle, and the marginalization of black Americans. Baldwin drew on his struggle of overlapping marginalization in his writing — in one interview he described being born poor, black, and gay as “hitting the jackpot” for sourcing material. But his intersectional politics made it hard for the author to find a home with the political movements of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Baldwin was an exile who remained intensely realistic, patient and hopeful about his country’s transformation.

A photo of Tristan Parks in a performance
Unifyed Visuals

Artist Tristan Parks has spent so much time in communion with James Baldwin in the past year that he says he is “sure Baldwin is annoyed” with him at this point. Baldwin, of course, passed away more than three decades ago, but his spirit, words and philosophy are very much alive in Parks’ new performance-art piece, “They Do Not Know Harlem: In Communion with James Baldwin.”