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August 02

James Baldwin was born today in 1924.

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James Baldwin was born today in 1924.

Grades 9 – 12
Calendar Activity Type Author & Text





Novelist, essayist, and social critic James Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924, in Harlem. At 14, he was in training to become a Pentecostal preacher, but by 17 he had become disillusioned with Christianity. Troubled by the racism he encountered in America, he moved to France when he was 24 where he wrote his first book, the semi-autobiographical  Go Tell It on the Mountain. Later works include  Giovanni's Room, known for its frank depiction of homosexuality, and a collection of essays,  The Fire Next Time. Eventually known as a key voice in the Civil Rights Movement, Baldwin died in France in 1987.




Preview and share with students all or parts of Baldwin's 1963 essay A Talk to Teachers. Ask students to identify Baldwin's main contentions about race relations in America and think critically about connections they see to other texts (such as poems, books, or films) and to contemporary social issues.

Then invite students to use the Letter Generator to write a letter to Baldwin responding to his ideas and how they see them resonating with the present.



  • James Baldwin | American Masters

    From the PBS American Masters program James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket, this "about the author" site shares biographical information and links to several video clips of Baldwin in conversation.


  • James Baldwin's Archive, Long Hidden, Comes (Mostly) Into View

    This New York Times article reports on the acquisition of Baldwin's personal writing by the Schomburg Center for Black Culture in Harlem. It includes images of several pages of Baldwin's hand- or typewritten manuscripts.


  • James Baldwin | Poetry Foundation

    Baldwin's entry at the Poetry Foundation features an extensive biography and links to poems and other works.


  • I Am Not Your Negro: Official Site

    Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Picture. I Am Not Your Negro is Raoul Peck's 2016 adaptation of Baldwin's unfinished manuscript Remember This House. The site offers video excerpts and background information.



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Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Exploring Language and Identity: Amy Tan's "Mother Tongue" and Beyond

Students explore the idea of "different Englishes" by reading Amy Tan's "Mother Tongue" and writing literacy narratives about their own use of different language for different audiences and purposes.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Propaganda Techniques in Literature and Online Political Ads

Students analyze propaganda techniques used in pieces of literature and political advertisements. They then look for propaganda in other media, such as print ads and commercials.


Grades   11 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Examining the Legacy of the American Civil Rights Era

As part of their study of Richard Wright's Black Boy, students research and reflect on the current black-white racial divide in America. By examining the work of literature in the context of contemporary events, students will deepen their understanding of the work and of what it means to be an American today.


Grades   2 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Captioning the Civil Rights Movement: Reading the Images, Writing the Words

Teachers guide students to carefully view images from the Civil Rights Movement and write captions that accurately describe the images and/or their probable purposes.