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James Baldwin

Boris Chaliapin, 1904 - May 1979
James Arthur Baldwin, 2 Aug 1924 - 1 Dec 1987
Watercolor, gouache, pastel and graphite pencil on paperboard
Sight: 35.6 x 25.1cm (14 x 9 7/8")
Mat: 55.9 x 40.6cm (22 x 16")
Frame: 57.2 x 44.5 x 1.9cm (22 1/2 x 17 1/2 x 3/4")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine
Restrictions & Rights
© Chris Murphy
Object number
Exhibition Label
Born New York City
African American writer James Baldwin spent most of his adult life in France, and so never numbered among the country's leading civil rights activists in the usual sense. But as one of the most passionate and eloquent writers about the problems of race in America, Baldwin gave substantial impetus to the civil rights ferment of the 1950s and 1960s. Shortly after the publication of his collection of essays The Fire Next Time in 1963, Time magazine featured this cover portrait. One observer said of Baldwin, "in the U.S. today there is not another writer-white or black-who expresses with such poignancy and abrasiveness the dark realities of American racism." Among Baldwin's best-known works are Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), a largely autobiographical novel about growing up in Harlem, and his volume of essays Nobody Knows My Name (1960).
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection