Wednesday, April 19, 2017
James Baldwin may have died in 1987, but his time is now, as his prophetic essays on race are flying off the shelves, reading like today’s news. While anyone can go purchase his books, Baldwin still remains elusive with admirers longing to read his letters. Baldwin’s estate has held tightly to hundreds of his correspondence documents and never allowed them to be published. Now, the pioneer’s papers have landed in the hands of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture but will be unavailable for yet another generation, as negotiations continue between the library and his estate. These negotiations suggest that Baldwin’s protective estate is not quite ready for the world to see the complete, private Baldwin. The estate’s reservations may very well be outweighed by the richness of the archive, specifically how Baldwin navigated the different aspects of his identity—gay, African-American, political, and artistic. Ultimately, the final reveal of Baldwin’s papers will shine a light on his lively existence and confirm the public message he always set out to convey.
See Jennifer Schuessler, James Baldwin’s Archive, Long Hidden, Comes (Mostly) into View, N.Y. Times, April 12, 2017.
Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.