All of us are chasing Baldwin–even if we don't know it.
— Ta-Nehisi Coates (@tanehisicoates) January 25, 2015
Lauded by his contemporaries and widely hailed as one of the most profound social critics of all time, James Baldwin is a literary icon. Born in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance, the writing of the American novelist, essayist, playwright and poet has endured the test of time. His books are a staple on best-seller's lists, recordings of his talks and speeches continue to rack up YouTube views by the thousands and the 2016 release of the documentary, "I Am Not Your Negro" based on his unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, was a box office success receiving a People's Choice Award at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and an Academy Award nomination.
Now a personal archive of Baldwin's creative works is returning home to Harlem. On Wednesday, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at The New York Public Library, announced its acquisition of nearly 30 linear feet of Baldwin's published and unpublished works. The comprehensive collection includes handwritten letters and manuscripts; handwritten and typed drafts of essays, novels and short stories; galleys and screenplays with handwritten notes and fragments; interviews, telegrams, personal photographs, correspondence and audio recordings.
“We are more than excited to have James Baldwin return home to Harlem,” says Kevin Young, Director of the Schomburg Center. “Baldwin’s amazing collection adds to our ever-growing holdings of writers, political figures, artists, and cultural icons across the African diaspora. With the current resurgence of interest in Baldwin’s works and words, and renovation of our own spaces from the main gallery to the Schomburg Shop, the timing couldn’t be better for Baldwin to join us at the Schomburg Center.”
Acquired through the Ford Foundation, Katharine J. Rayner, James and Morag Anderson, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and New York Life, items from the Baldwin Archive will be on limited public display from April 13-17 as part of the exhibition The Evidence of Things Seen: Selections from the James Baldwin Papers.