National Book Month: James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time

As one of the foremost American writers of the 20th century, James Baldwin explored various subjects, including race relations, the arts, and love, in works that always showed his strong moral conscience. His writing made him a leading intellectual figure during the years of the civil rights movement. Published in 1963, The Fire Next Time contains two essays: “Letter from a Region in My Mind” and “A Letter to My Nephew.” Both offer cutting criticism and eloquently articulate the complexities of race relations in America, a subject that’s been on my mind this week with Martin Luther King Jr. Day coming up this Monday.

Artist Thomas Blackshear II based his stamp portrait on a black-and-white photograph of Baldwin taken around 1960, probably in New York. The stamp background is evocative of Baldwin’s semi-autobiographical novel Go Tell It on the Mountain, set in Harlem.