Native Son James Baldwin Published Term Paper

Throughout these essays he weaves the larger political events of the day. Well aware that Black soldiers made important contributions in World War II, he notes that the armed forces were strongly segregated. He notes that Italy is fighting a war in Ethiopia, and sees, perhaps correctly, racial issues there.

It is clear that Baldwin's intended audience is fellow Blacks. For instance, the essay "Journey to Atlanta" opens with the sentence, "The Progressive Party has not, so far as I can gather, made any great impression in Harlem..." (p. 73). What Progressive Party? Who are they, and what do they stand for? Baldwin assumes the reader already knows the basics. His point is that Blacks had been disenfranchised from any effective political influence for so long that many were indifferent to all politics, even when those practicing them might have been looking to assist them in some way. Baldwin pointed out that the greatest single gain for Blacks up to that time -- the Emancipation Proclamation -- was politically and not socially motivated. He connects the path of the Progressive Party to the Communist Party, a group that tried but did not accomplish much in the way of social change, so he is not surprised to see large groups of Blacks who are politically apathetic.

But perhaps Baldwin makes his point about the state of Blacks at the time most effectively when he is simply reminiscing. While most of the essays are written in forceful language, with complicated sentence structure and complex words, when he talks about his father, he gets to the heart of all people when he says, "He could be chilling in the pulpit and indescribably cruel in his personal life and he was certainly the most bitter man I have ever met... he knew that he was black but did not know that he was beautiful."...

...

87).
Baldwin describes race relations that most of us would not recognize today, and the reader has to remember that Baldwin himself judged people individually, or he would not have had Sol Stein as a close friend. He describes the "White world" as greedy, complacent too ready with gratuitous humiliation" (p. 112). While one might make a case for the first two, the great majority of White Americans today would find gratuitous humiliation toward anyone of any other race disgusting and repellant behavior. Today, White supremicist groups are viewed as part of the lunatic fringe. Some things have changed significantly since Baldwin wrote the essays in this book.

Throughout Notes of a Native Son, Baldwin gives examples of self-sabotage. His father does not want James' teacher to come visit them in their home, saying that a White teacher couldn't possibly have any real interest in him. His father dies during the terrible riots in Harlem of 1943, and Baldwin notes that the destruction and mayhem end at the borders of Harlem even though it would have been simple to vent the anger on non-Black areas as well. He doesn't state the obvious reason -- that those in power at the time tolerated Blacks destroying their own neighborhoods but that the response would have been terrible if they had attacked White neighborhoods as well. They could only take their rage out on themselves.

Notes of a Native Son is a book that should be read by all people of all colors, because it has only been fifty years since Baldwin wrote these words. All people in the United States need to understand the very real wrongs we have attempted to right with the various civil rights laws. As a country we should recognize just how easily we slipped into racism and just how hard it was to start to dig ourselves out.

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Baldwin describes race relations that most of us would not recognize today, and the reader has to remember that Baldwin himself judged people individually, or he would not have had Sol Stein as a close friend. He describes the "White world" as greedy, complacent too ready with gratuitous humiliation" (p. 112). While one might make a case for the first two, the great majority of White Americans today would find gratuitous humiliation toward anyone of any other race disgusting and repellant behavior. Today, White supremicist groups are viewed as part of the lunatic fringe. Some things have changed significantly since Baldwin wrote the essays in this book.

Throughout Notes of a Native Son, Baldwin gives examples of self-sabotage. His father does not want James' teacher to come visit them in their home, saying that a White teacher couldn't possibly have any real interest in him. His father dies during the terrible riots in Harlem of 1943, and Baldwin notes that the destruction and mayhem end at the borders of Harlem even though it would have been simple to vent the anger on non-Black areas as well. He doesn't state the obvious reason -- that those in power at the time tolerated Blacks destroying their own neighborhoods but that the response would have been terrible if they had attacked White neighborhoods as well. They could only take their rage out on themselves.

Notes of a Native Son is a book that should be read by all people of all colors, because it has only been fifty years since Baldwin wrote these words. All people in the United States need to understand the very real wrongs we have attempted to right with the various civil rights laws. As a country we should recognize just how easily we slipped into racism and just how hard it was to start to dig ourselves out.


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