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James Baldwin

The FBI File

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Available in book form for the first time, the FBI's secret dossier on the legendary and controversial writer.

Decades before Black Lives Matter returned James Baldwin to prominence, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI considered the Harlem-born author the most powerful broker between black art and black power. Baldwin’s 1,884-page FBI file, covering the period from 1958 to 1974, was the largest compiled on any African American artist of the Civil Rights era. This collection of once-secret documents, never before published in book form, captures the FBI’s anxious tracking of Baldwin’s writings, phone conversations, and sexual habits—and Baldwin’s defiant efforts to spy back at Hoover and his G-men.

James Baldwin: The FBI File reproduces over one hundred original FBI records, selected by the noted literary historian whose award-winning book, F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature, brought renewed attention to bureau surveillance. William J. Maxwell also provides an introduction exploring Baldwin's enduring relevance in the time of Black Lives Matter along with running commentaries that orient the reader and offer historical context, making this book a revealing look at a crucial slice of the American past—and present.

  • Publisher: Arcade (June 6, 2017)
  • Length: 440 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781628727388

“The best literary biography I’ve read in a long time. An engrossing narrative.” —Leon Edel

“The most revealing and subjectively penetrating assessment of Baldwin’s life yet published.” —The New York Times Book Review

“The first Baldwin biography in which one can recognize the human features of this brilliant, troubled, principled, supremely courageous man.” —Boston Globe

“Loving but honest . . . [Baldwin] wrote, ‘No people come into possession of a culture without having paid a heavy price for it,’ and . . . Mr. Leeming shows so well [the price he paid].” —The New York Times

“Intimate, artful—and major . . . An exceptional literary biography deserving wide promotion and readership . . . [by] a personal friend of the great novelist and essayist.” —Booklist

“Highly perceptive, revealing.” —Publishers Weekly

“The best literary biography I’ve read in a long time. An engrossing narrative.” —Leon Edel

“The most revealing and subjectively penetrating assessment of Baldwin’s life yet published.” —The New York Times Book Review

“The first Baldwin biography in which one can recognize the human features of this brilliant, troubled, principled, supremely courageous man.” —Boston Globe

“Loving but honest . . . [Baldwin] wrote, ‘No people come into possession of a culture without having paid a heavy price for it,’ and . . . Mr. Leeming shows so well [the price he paid].” —The New York Times

“Intimate, artful—and major . . . An exceptional literary biography deserving wide promotion and readership . . . [by] a personal friend of the great novelist and essayist.” —Booklist

“Highly perceptive, revealing.” —Publishers Weekly