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Baldwin's Harlem: A Biography of James Baldwin Hardcover – January 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although James Baldwin (1924–1987) left his native Harlem as a young man and returned only for occasional visits, the New York neighborhood was a recurring theme in his essays and novels, and critics often claimed that the noted African-American writer exploited its squalor. His junior high French teacher was luminary Countee Cullen, who may have inspired Baldwin's later Paris sojourn and his first literary efforts, and Baldwin shared a stormy relationship with another Harlem Renaissance progenitor, poet Langston Hughes, who called Another Country juvenile. Baldwin shared a distrust of white liberals with Malcolm X and lent his powerful voice to Harlem's '60s causes, including a rent-strike rally and defense of the Harlem Six put on trial for the brutal murder of a Jewish shopkeeper. Longtime Harlem resident Boyd, managing editor of Black World Today, is authoritative, but in his self-proclaimed role as Baldwin's defender, he gives short shrift to the writer's homosexuality and comes across as rationalizing the anti-Semitism Baldwin was repeatedly accused of in his lifetime. The literary critiques of Baldwin's writings and other details render this volume primarily of interest to scholars of African-American studies (Jan.)
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"Fascinating and authoritative."
--Arnold Rampersad

"Herb Boyd's study of Baldwin and Harlem features vivid literary portraits of a powerful writer in sometimes controversial dialogue with other major figures of his era. It also centers Baldwin's Harlem in a memorable, necessary way. Boyd's book is fascinating and authoritative on a subject that he knows well and writes about with insight and sympathy."
-- Arnold Rampersad, author of Ralph Ellison: A Biography

"Herb Boyd has written an original and extremely valuable book that captures the genius and complexity of James Baldwin, one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century."
-- Sondra Kathryn Wilson, author of Meet Me at the Theresa

"Herb Boyd takes Baldwin away from the ivory towers of literary scholars and elites, and centers him with, and within, the experience of his people. Required reading."
-- Todd Steven Burroughs, Ph.D., journalist --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Atria; 1 edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074329307X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743293075
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,536,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Herb Boyd is a journalist, activist, teacher, and has authored or edited 22 books, including his most recent one, Civil Rights: Yesterday & Today. His book Baldwin's Harlem, a biography of James Baldwin, was a finalist for a 2009 NAACP Image Award. In 1995, with Robert Allen, he was a recipient of an American Book Award for Brotherman--The Odyssey of Black Men in America, an anthology. We Shall Overcome, a media-fusion book with narration by the late Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, is used in classrooms all over the world, as is his Autobiography of a People and The Harlem Reader. His articles can be found in such publications as The Black Scholar, The Final Call, the Amsterdam News, Cineaste, Downbeat, and The Network Journal, among others.
Among the highlights of his remarkable journalistic career was an invitation to fly on Air Force One with President Obama, whom he has interviewed on several occasions.
Over the last decade or so, Boyd has scripted several documentaries, including several with Keith Beauchamp on cold cases of martyrs from the civil rights era that were shown on Biography Channel and TV One. With filmmaker Eddie Harris, he was the writer on three documentaries--Trek to the Holy Land, Cri de Coeur (Cry from the Heart), and Slap the Donkey, that tracks the Rev. Al Sharpton's presidential bid in 2004. The latter film was recently selected to be screened at the Montreal Film Festival in 2010. Boyd is also a frequent guest on national television and radio shows, as well as a keynote speaker at many functions sponsored by noted community and college organizations, where his commentaries on African American culture and politics have earned him an increasingly large audience and popularity. For more than forty years, he has taught at institutions of higher learning. Currently, he teaches at the College of New Rochelle in the Bronx and at City College New York, and is also a national and international correspondent for Free Speech, a media company that specializes in Internet television.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Miriam Sagan on May 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
James Baldwin was born in Harlem, a simple fact, but one with far from simple impact on his character, destiny, and art. Baldwin was born in 1924 in Harlem Hospital His mother was Emma Berdis Jones, part of the African American migration from the south and away from segregation laws and the threat of the Klan. Baldwin never knew who his father was, and was raised by an often abusive step-father, David Baldwin. Harlem, with all of its conflicts, ambiguities, and social levels gave birth not to just James Baldwin the man but to Baldwin the writer. Even though he left as a young adult, never to permanently return, Baldwin's formative experiences were those he would mine forever as a writer.
Herb Boyd's biography of James Baldwin, Baldwin's Harlem, makes this influence clear in all its details. Published by Atria Books, the biography chronicles Baldwin's early years on hard streets made harder by the Depression. But Harlem also had tremendous cultural vibrancy. Although the literary movement dubbed the Harlem Renaissance had waned, important figures from it such as Langston Hughes still remained. Countee Cullen, a poet from the Harlem Renaissance, was actiually Baldwin's teacher in junior high school. Theater, music, and politics still filled the air. And Baldwin observed, looking back from 1980: "The poverty of my childhood differed from the poverty of today in that the TV set was not sitting in front of our faces, forcing us to make unbearable comparisons between the room we were sitting in and the rooms we were watching, neither were we endlessly being told what to wear and drink and buy. We knew that we were poor, but then, everybody around us was poor."
If the threat of the south was the Klu Klux Klan, then police brutality presented an analagous threat in Harlem.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sham on June 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
James Baldwin is a person who is ignored in the African-American movement. Baldwin was ahead of his time and as a writer, wasn't given enough recognition, fame, or money as white writers with a third of his talent. This book outlines his life-story, from Harlem to Paris. His involvement and interaction with people like Robert F. Kennedy and his being omitted from the March on Washington, although he was suppose to make a speech, but they knew Baldwin was liable to get up there and say anything.

This is a comprehensive look at one of the heroes of the 50's and 60's.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
..I read my first Baldwin, "Giovanni's Room," a short time ago. What a great entree into :"Baldwin's Harlem,"
Boyd and Baldwin: What a symbiotic-terrific- Team
Read all of their stuff.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Desiree Frost on September 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Boyd does a superb job of telling Baldwins' life and happenings in Harlem. I love reading the historical parts of the book. I highly recommend this title.
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