James Baldwin is one of America's best known and most controversial writers. If there is some figurative truth in his declarations "Nobody Knows My Name" and "No Name in the Street," on a realistic level practically everyone knows his name, from people on the street to scholars in the most prestigious universities-and they all respond to him. Those responses are as diverse and as antithetical as the respondents. Indeed, there is little unanimity in the criticism of James Baldwin: some view him as a prophet preaching love and salvation, others as a soothsayer forecasting death and destruction; some see him as a civil-rights advocate writing protest literature, others as an artist imaginatively portraying the plight of the black American or the alienated man. This essay considers many of these varied responses to James Baldwin, the man; James Baldwin, the spokesman for the black people; James Baldwin, the essayist; and James Baldwin, the novelist.

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Copyright © 1978 St. Martin's Press. This chapter first appeared in Black American Writers: Bibliographical Essays.

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