Baldwin describes his father as a distant figure, fiercely proud and stubborn. He died just before Baldwin's nineteenth birthday, and when he was dead, Baldwin realized that the two of them had scarcely ever spoken and barely knew each other. His father was already middle-aged when Baldwin was born and had gone through many trials and indignities that had made him angry and unapproachable.
Despite all this, Baldwin says, he loved his children. Their blackness formed a bond: since so much of the trouble in his father's life had been caused by the color of his skin, he seemed to foresee similar tribulations in their future and sympathized in advance.
Baldwin says that his father always had difficulty in connecting with others, and this was most acutely obvious when he met someone for the first time. Although his relationship with his children was distant and difficult, therefore, this was a feature of his character and the way he approached the world, rather than being confined to his behavior within the family.