This essay draws on James Baldwin’s ideas on race, immigration, and American identity to examine the experience of contemporary African immigrants in the United States. More Africans have come to the U.S. since 1965 than through the Middle Passage, and only now is their experience gaining the full creative and critical attention it merits. Since becoming American entails adopting the racial norms and sentiments of the U.S., I explore how African immigrants contend with the process of racialization that is part and parcel of the American experience. Drawing on Baldwin’s idea of blackness as an ethical category, I also consider the limits of the concept of Afropolitanism to characterize the new wave of African immigrants in the U.S.
A Roundtable Conversation at the
2014 American Studies Convention
Brian Norman, Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman, John E. Drabinski, Julius Fleming, Nigel Hatton, Dagmawi Woubshet and Magdalena Zaborowska
Six key Baldwin scholars converged at the 2014 American Studies Association to consider
the question of privacy, informed by their own book-length projects in process. Key topics
included Baldwin’s sexuality and the (open) secret, historical lack of access to privacy
in African-American experience, obligations for public representation in African-American
literary history, Baldwin’s attempts to construct home spaces, public access to Baldwin’s
private documents, and ethical matters for scholars in creating and preserving Baldwin’s
legacy, including his final home in St. Paul-de-Vence.