Jacob Carter
James Baldwin's Life



James Baldwin was born August 2, 1924, in Harlem, New York. Baldwin was born to a single mother, Emma Jones, who eventually married a minister when he was three years old. In his early years, James followed in his step-father's footsteps and practiced religious teachings. He was a minister between the age of 14 and 16 before he truly found his passion for writing. Baldwin attended DeWitt Clinton High School where he began to write in the school's magazine. This is where is talent came to attention and the start of a famous writing career. Being the oldest child with seven younger siblings, James's dreams of going to college had to be put on hold while he picked up any odd job he could to provide for the family. Eventually, James Baldwin moved New York City where he began to write for magazines such as The Nation, Partisan Review, and Commentary. Three years later, James Baldwin packed up his bags and left to Paris, France for more opportunities in writing and to escape from the negativity that he had put up with about his skin color and homosexuality ("James Baldwin Biography").

James Baldwin become most well known for his novels and playwrights discussing topics about racial and social problems. He was extremely good at explaining problems that African Americans faced and he showed it within in his writing. One play, The Amen Corner, was so popular it hit Broadway in the mid 1960s. His self-expression through his writing brought out a new view of African Americans and boosted moral with their civil rights. James Baldwin fits the Harlem Renaissance because he, like many of the other authors, sought for equal rights between whites and blacks. He brought out the perspective of the African Americans in his short stories, novels, and even poems that he wrote in his later years. In the last few years of Baldwin's life, he wrote several inspiring works of self-expression that added to the movement of civil rights of the African Americans. He died on December 1, 1987 due to stomach cancer ("James Baldwin Biography").

Poetry Analysis

James Baldwin's short story

1 There was once a king of Prussia whose name was Frederick William.
2 On a fine morning in June he went out alone to walk in the green woods. He was tired of the noise of the city, and he was glad to get away from it.
3 So, as he walked among the trees, he often stopped to listen to the singing birds, or to look at the wild flowers that grew on every side. Now and then he stooped to 4 pluck a violet, or a primrose, or a yellow butter-cup. Soon his hands were full of pretty blossoms.
5 After a while he came to a little meadow in the midst of the wood. Some children were playing there. They were running here and there, and gathering the cow slips 6 that were blooming among the grass.
7 It made the king glad to see the happy children, and hear their merry voices. He stood still for some time, and watched them as they played.
8 Then he called them around him, and all sat down together in the pleasant shade. The children did not know who the strange gentleman was; but they liked his kind face and gentle manners.
9 "Now, my little folks," said the king, "I want to ask you some questions, and the child who gives the best answer shall have a prize."
10 Then he held up an orange so that all the children could see.
11 "You know that we all live in the kingdom of Prussia," he said; "but tell me, to what kingdom does this orange belong?"
12 The children were puzzled. They looked at one another, and sat very still for a little while. Then a brave, bright boy spoke up and said,--
13 "It belongs to the vegetable kingdom, sir."
14 "Why so, my lad?" asked the king.
15 "It is the fruit of a plant, and all plants belong to that kingdom," said the boy.
16 The king was pleased. "You are quite right," he said; "and you shall have the orange for your prize."
17 He tossed it gayly to the boy. "Catch it if you can!" he said.
18 Then he took a yellow gold piece from his pocket, and held it up so that it glittered in the sunlight.
19 "Now to what kingdom does this belong?" he asked.
20 Another bright boy answered quickly, "To the mineral kingdom, sir! All metals belong to that kingdom."
21 "That is a good answer," said the king. "The gold piece is your prize."
22 The children were delighted. With eager faces they waited to hear what the stranger would say next.
23 "I will ask you only one more question," said the king, "and it is an easy one." Then he stood up, and said, "Tell me, my little folks, to what kingdom do I belong?"
24 The bright boys were puzzled now. Some thought of saying, "To the kingdom of Prussia." Some wanted to say, "To the animal kingdom." But they were a little afraid, and all kept still.
25 At last a tiny blue-eyed child looked up into the king's smiling face, and said in her simple way,
26 "I think to the kingdom of heaven."
27 King Frederick William stooped down and lifted the little maiden in his arms. Tears were in his eyes as he kissed her, and said, "So be it, my child! So be it."

[The end] (Baldwin)

James Baldwin, as stated earlier, brought a new view and a different style of writing to the table as he wrote using symbolism about African Americans and more. His short story, Kingdoms, may not have been about African American rights, but if the reader keeps an open mind, then the words can mean anything. Much of Baldwin's writing had to do with civil rights of African Americans, so Kingdomscould be interpreted in that way. It is through James's imagery and symbolism in this poem that influenced African Americans and anyone who reads this short story/poem ("American Writers: James Baldwin").

Kingdoms, by James Baldwin, brings out feeling and emotion that can really strike at the reader's heart. The inclusion of the children and their innocent answers bring out the best parts of a child and the joy that they can bring to this world. His writing brought out imagery when he writes, "a tiny blue-eyed child looked up into the king's smiling face..." (25). The king is described as a good man, who is kind and cares about his people. When one thinks of a king, they usually think of power and a selfish leader who sits on his throne of wealth. This king seems like kind man when Baldwin say, "It made the king glad to see the happy children, and hear their merry voices. He stood still for some time, and watched them as they played" (7). The king must have been a very busy man as seen in line two when it says, "He was tired of the noise of the city, and he was glad to get away from it."

Now compare this poem to the Harlem Renaissance or to the life of an African American during the times that they were discriminated against. Baldwin uses symbolism when the king says, "Tell me, my little folks, to what kingdom do I belong?" (23). A little child answers, "I think to the kingdom of heaven," in line 26. This could symbolize unity throughout all nations. Every person is different in their own way, whether it be race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, or whatever one person may be, they're still people and should be treated equally. Baldwin might use the innocence of a child to show how "childish" discrimination against the African Americans was and he showed that every body is equal by saying, "to the kingdom of heaven" (26).

Baldwin's political stance on civil rights for African American's was, "blacks should work for equality peacefully..." ("American Writers: James Baldwin"). His step-father died the same day that the Harlem Riots started to break out, causing a large amount mixed emotions and confusion. James decided to drop the odd jobs and begin writing, not just for fun, but to output the ideas and views he had about civil rights and the perspectives of the African Americans. After time, James Baldwin became a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance Movement and in the Civil Rights Movement. He was born in 1924, and grew up right in the early stages of the Harlem Renaissance. He was taught by Countee Cullen, who was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance as well. The impact that James Baldwin has left behind has changed the views of African Americans and the greatly affected the way literature is written today.

("James Baldwin Biography")

Works Cited

"American Writers: James Baldwin." American Writers. Web. 18 Mar. 2012. <http://www.americanwriters.org/classroom/resources/tr_baldwin.asp>.

Baldwin, James. "The Kingdoms." James Baldwin's Short Story:. Web. 18 Mar. 2012. <http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/9359/>.
"James Baldwin Biography." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television. Web. 18 Mar. 2012. <http://www.biography.com/people/james-baldwin-9196635>.
Warren, Allan. Wikipedia. Web. 18 Mar. 2012. <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/46/James_Baldwin_2_Allan_Warren.jpg>.