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date: 06 August 2020

Notes of a Native Son.locked

  • Trudier Harris

Extract

James Baldwin's first collection of essays, Notes of a Native Son (1955) brought together pieces he had published in Commentary, Harper's Magazine, Partisan Review, and other journals. The essays solidified Baldwin's reputation as an essayist as well as his persistence in criticizing America for its racial shortcomings. An autobiographical section precedes the ten essays. Dominant in his own life and in the essays is a recurring theme: what it means to be a black man in America. His status as a writer gives a special twist to that problem and leads him to assert: “I want to be an honest man and a good writer.”

Part 1, consisting of three essays, reflects Baldwin's early attempts at literary and cultural criticism. “Everybody's Protest Novel” revisits Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852 which Baldwin read so frequently as a child that his mother had to hide it from ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature.

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