Ryan Collins

Institution: Pomona College

JAMES BALDWIN: UNCOVERING BLACK QUEER TRUTHS

Research presentation

The Civil Rights Movement was the summation of grass-roots activism as well as high profile demonstrations to form a complex tapestry of resistance to white supremacy. Activism of this caliber was possible through the work of several activists, theorists, and authors; often these activists were working class, women, queer, or somehow outside of the patriarchal norm in some other fashion. Unfortunately, middle class straight men were the de-facto faces of the movement in an attempt to appeal to white civil society. Thus, many profound thinkers were either denied recognition for their work, or their work itself has been reduced to one-dimensional understandings of what they actually represented. One such activist whose work has been unfairly obscured and re-shaped in the movement is James Baldwin. Baldwin was a profound author and activist whose work spanned several decades and covered several relevant topics to Black life. In addition to his written work, Baldwin’s televised presence was crucial in directly influencing the American public in a form more accessible than some of his written texts. However, Baldwin’s identity as a gay man is often erased from discussions of his impact, however it is evident Baldwin was firm in his support of gay rights in tandem with Black rights. Through the analysis of three of Baldwin’s most widely known texts, The Fire Next Time, Giovanni’s Room, and If Beale Street Could Talk it’s clear that Baldwin was intersectional in his understanding of liberation.

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