Notes of a Native Son

by James Baldwin

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Baldwin mentions the Progressive Party of the United States in his essay ‘‘Journey to Atlanta.’’ Research the history of this political party. Who were its candidates? What were its prominent platform issues? Was the party ever successful in getting one of its candidates elected? What was the time period in which the Party was active? Which contemporary party most resembles it, if any.

Read Richard Wright’s novel Native Son, keeping Baldwin’s essays ‘‘Everybody’s Protest Novel’’ and ‘‘Many Thousands Gone’’ in mind. Do you agree with Baldwin’s assessment of Wright’s work? Write a short paper that contains your conclusions and arguments.

Research the history of Harlem. Who were its earliest inhabitants? Describe the major population changes over the years. When did the riots occur? What is Harlem like today?

Baldwin wrote Notes of a Native Son during his twenties. He wrote The Fire Next Time more than a decade later. Choose one of the essays in his second collection of essays that best demonstrates a change in voice or attitude. Compare it to one specific essay in Notes of A Native Son. Is his later writing clearer? More accessible? Have his beliefs changed?

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