Homosexuals and James Baldwin's Role in the Civil Rights Movement

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During the Civil Rights Movement, James Baldwin wrote many articles and essays on racial issues. His unique and powerful style invoked the thoughts of many people. What also made Baldwin stand out from others was his homosexuality. Baldwin wrote several essays and novels that had a homosexual theme rooted within the story. It was through this method that Baldwin was able to express his homosexuality and at the same time present a view of black culture that was highly unacceptable during that time period. His works gave him much widespread attention but essentially he was not recognized as a prominent leader of the movement. This was a result of stereotyped images of homosexuals and the desire for African American men …show more content…
Understanding why Baldwin was criticized requires a look into the time period in which the movement took place. According to Spurlin, Time Magazine on May 17, 1963, produced a cover story on Baldwin as part of an article that was titled “Races: Freedom - Now.” (105). The article highlights Baldwin and has much praise about his work. However, it takes a dreadful turn when the article says that Baldwin “is not, by any stretch of the imagination, Negro leader. He tries no civil rights cases in the courts, preaches from no pulpit, devises no stratagems for sit-ins, Freedom Riders or street marchers.” (qtd. in Spurlin 105). It begins to become clear that even though Baldwin is highly looked upon within the community, writing essays and novels isn’t seen as a form of action that will bring about change. However, the article had more to say about Baldwin, this time about his sexuality. It says that he is “a nervous, slight, almost fragile figure, filled with frets and fears. He is effeminate in manner, drinks considerably, smokes cigarettes in chains, and he often loses his audience with overblown arguments” (qtd. in Spurlin 105; emphasis added).

To label Baldwin as an effeminate figure is something that homosexuality is often stereotyped as being. Even though placing Baldwin in this