Notes of a Native Son

Front Cover
Beacon Press, 1984 - Social Science - 175 pages
96 Reviews

A new edition of the book many have called James Baldwin's most influential work

Written during the 1940s and early 1950s, when Baldwin was only in his twenties, the essays collected in Notes of a Native Son capture a view of black life and black thought at the dawn of the civil rights movement and as the movement slowly gained strength through the words of one of the most captivating essayists and foremost intellectuals of that era. Writing as an artist, activist, and social critic, Baldwin probes the complex condition of being black in America. With a keen eye, he examines everything from the significance of the protest novel to the motives and circumstances of the many black expatriates of the time, from his home in "The Harlem Ghetto" to a sobering "Journey to Atlanta."

Notes of a Native Son inaugurated Baldwin as one of the leading interpreters of the dramatic social changes erupting in the United States in the twentieth century, and many of his observations have proven almost prophetic. His criticism on topics such as the paternalism of white progressives or on his own friend Richard Wright's work is pointed and unabashed. He was also one of the few writing on race at the time who addressed the issue with a powerful mixture of outrage at the gross physical and political violence against black citizens and measured understanding of their oppressors, which helped awaken a white audience to the injustices under their noses. Naturally, this combination of brazen criticism and unconventional empathy for white readers won Baldwin as much condemnation as praise.

Notes is the book that established Baldwin's voice as a social critic, and it remains one of his most admired works. The essays collected here create a cohesive sketch of black America and reveal an intimate portrait of Baldwin's own search for identity as an artist, as a black man, and as an American.


What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

brilliant, deep writer. - Goodreads
Good educational and autobiography read. - Goodreads
Exceptional writing. - Kirkus
The writing is beautiful and perfect. - Goodreads
Haunting...masterful...a lot to learn for any writer. - Goodreads
Excellent writing throughout. - Goodreads

Review: Notes of a Native Son

User Review  - Erneilson - Goodreads

Classic essays on the condition of blacks in America, written in the 1950's. Plenty to think about. Read full review

Review: Notes of a Native Son

User Review  - Carmen Petaccio - Goodreads

"I do not like people whose principle aim is pleasure, and I do not like people who are earnest about anything." Read full review

All 27 reviews »

Selected pages


Preface to the 1984 Edition
Autobiographical Notes
Everybodys Protest Novel
Many Thousands Gone
The Dark Is Light Enough
The Harlem Ghetto
Journey to Atlanta
Notes of a Native Son
Black Meets Brown
A Question of Identity
Equal in Paris
Stranger in the Village

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

Spatial Formations
Nigel Thrift
No preview available - 1996
All Book Search results »

About the author (1984)

James Baldwin (1924-1987) was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic, and one of America's foremost writers. His essays, such as "Notes of a Native Son" (1955), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-twentieth-century America. A Harlem, New York, native, he primarily made his home in the south of France.
His novels include "Giovanni's Room" (1956), about a white American expatriate who must come to terms with his homosexuality, and "Another Country" (1962), about racial and gay sexual tensions among New York intellectuals. His inclusion of gay themes resulted in much savage criticism from the black community. "Going to Meet the Man" (1965) and "Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone" (1968) provided powerful descriptions of American racism. As an openly gay man, he became increasingly outspoken in condemning discrimination against lesbian and gay people.

Bibliographic information