When James Baldwin in No Name in the Street discusses the case of Tony Maynard, who had
been imprisoned in Hamburg in 1967, he emphasizes that his efforts to aid his unjustly
imprisoned friend were greatly supported by his German publishing house Rowohlt and, in
particular, by his then-editor Fritz Raddatz (1931–2015). While the passages on Maynard
remain the only instance in Baldwin’s published writings in which Raddatz—praised as a
courageous “anti-Nazi German” and a kindred ally who “knows what it means to be beaten in
prison”—is mentioned directly, the relation between Baldwin and Raddatz has left traces
that cover over fifty years. The African-American writer and Rowohlt’s chief editor got to
know each other around 1963, when Baldwin was first published in Germany. They exchanged
letters between 1965 and 1984, and many of Raddatz’s critical writings from different
periods—the first piece from 1965, the last from 2014—focus of Baldwin’s books. They also
collaborated on various projects—among them a long interview and Baldwin’s review of
Roots—which were all published in the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit, where Raddatz
served as head of the literary and arts sections from 1977 to 1985. Drawing on published
and unpublished writings of both men, this article provides a discussion of the most
significant facets of this under-explored relationship and its literary achievements.
Thereby, it sheds new light on two central questions of recent Baldwin scholarship: first,
the circumstances of production and formation crucial to Baldwin’s writings of the 1970s
and 1980s, and secondly, Baldwin’s international activities, his transcultural
reception and influence.
Recalling the insurrectionary violence that descended upon the US Capitol on 6
January 2021, reflecting on the baser instincts left unchecked in America by an
absence of common communication and a paradigmatic shift in our media
apparatuses, Justin A. Joyce introduces the seventh volume of James
This review essay examines Eddie Glaude, Jr.’s new book Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own against several other recent works on Baldwin such as Bill Mullen’s James Baldwin: Living in Fire and Nicholas Buccola’s The Fire Is Upon Us.
In this essay, Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. addresses the historical and contemporary
failures of American democracy. Using the metaphor of “the
magician’s serpent,” Glaude brings Walt Whitman’s views on
democracy into the full light of America’s failure to resolve the problem
of race. Glaude places Whitman’s Democratic Vistas
(1871) in conversation with James Baldwin’s No Name in the
Street (1972) in order to construct a different sort of reading
practice that can both engage with Whitman’s views on democracy and
reckon with what George Hutchinson calls Whitman’s “white
imperialist self and ideology” as an indication of the limits of a
certain radical democratic imagining.
A Hollywood Love Story (as Written by James Baldwin)
D. Quentin Miller
Baldwin’s The Devil Finds Work (1976) has proven challenging since its publication because readers and critics have trouble classifying it. The challenge may be related to a common feature of Baldwin criticism, namely a tendency to compare late career works to early ones and to find them lacking: the experimental nature of later works of nonfiction like No Name in the Street (1972), The Devil Finds Work, and The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985) does not square easily with the more conventional essays that made Baldwin famous in his early years. I attempt to reframe The Devil Finds Work not through a comparison to other Baldwin essays, but rather through a comparison to his fiction, specifically the novel Giovanni’s Room. I posit that a greater appreciation for Devil can result from thinking of it as a story, specifically the story of a failed love affair.
The author reviews Raoul Peck’s 2016 film, I Am Not Your Negro, finding it a remarkable
achievement as a documentary that breaks with cinematic conventions and emphasizes the
importance of listening as much as looking. The director has singled out Baldwin as the
writer whose work spoke most directly to his own identity and experience during his
peripatetic childhood in Haiti and Africa, and in I Am Not Your Negro, Peck aims to ensure
that Baldwin’s words will have a similar effect on audiences. However, even as it succeeds
in reanimating Baldwin’s voice for a new political era, I Am Not Your Negro inadvertently
exposes the difficulty of fully capturing or honoring the writer’s complex legacy. As
scholars have long noted, interest in Baldwin’s life and work tends to divide along racial
and sexual lines, and Peck’s documentary is no exception. The filmmaker
privileges Baldwin’s blackness over his queerness by overlooking the parts of The
Devil Finds Work and No Name in the Street in which the writer’s queerness
Searching for Black Queer Domesticity at Chez Baldwin
Magdalena J. Zaborowska
This essay argues for the importance of James Baldwin’s last house, located in St. Paul-de-Vence in the south of France, to his late works written during the productive period of 1971–87: No Name in the Street (1972), If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), The Devil Finds Work (1976), Just Above My Head (1979), The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985), and the unpublished play The Welcome Table (1987). That period ushered in a new Baldwin, more complex and mature as an author, who became disillusioned while growing older as a black queer American who had no choice but to live abroad to get his work done and to feel safe. Having established his most enduring household at “Chez Baldwin,” as the property was known locally, the writer engaged in literary genre experimentation and challenged normative binaries of race, gender, and sexuality with his conceptions of spatially contingent national identity. The late Baldwin created unprecedented models of black queer domesticity and humanism that, having been excluded from U.S. cultural narratives until recently, offer novel ways to reconceptualize what it means to be an American intellectual in the twenty-first-century world.
James Baldwin has frequently been written about in terms of his relationship to geographical locations such as Harlem, Paris, St. Paul-de-Vence, Istanbul, and “the transatlantic,” but his longstanding connection to the American South, a region that served as a vexed and ambiguous spiritual battleground for him throughout his life and career, has been little discussed, even though Baldwin referred to himself as “in all but no technical legal fact, a Southerner.” This article argues that the South has been seriously underconsidered as a major factor in Baldwin’s psyche and career and that were it not for the challenge to witness the Southern Civil Rights movement made to Baldwin in the late 1950s, he might never have left Paris and become the writer and thinker into which he developed. It closely examines Baldwin’s fictional and nonfictional engagements with the American South during two distinct periods of his career, from his first visit to the region in 1957 through the watershed year of 1963, and from 1963 through the publication of Baldwin’s retrospective memoir No Name in the Street in 1972, and it charts Baldwin’s complex and often contradictory negotiations with the construction of identity in white and black Southerners and the South’s tendency to deny and censor its historical legacy of racial violence. A few years before his death, Baldwin wrote that “[t]he spirit of the South is the spirit of America,” and this essay investigates how the essential question he asked about the region—whether it’s a bellwether for America’s moral redemption or moral decline—remains a dangerous and open one.