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Celebrating 100 Years of James Baldwin with Centennial Series Editions!

By Mei Su Bailey

James Baldwin, 1969. Photo credit: Allan Warren
James Baldwin, 1969. Photo credit: Allan Warren

This year, Beacon Press is taking part in the nationwide celebration of James Baldwin’s hundredth birthday with the release of the James Baldwin Centennial Series! Originally published in Notes of a Native Son, these essay collections commemorate Baldwin’s legacy as an artist, an activist, a social critic, and a gifted writer.

Beacon Press first published Baldwin’s highly acclaimed Notes of a Native Son in 1955. “There is truly no greater honor for a press than having published James Baldwin,” reflects Beacon Press Director Gayatri Patnaik. “We know the impact that Notes of a Native Son had on the culture was immense and the story of how Beacon came to publish it is worth telling.”

Decades ago, Sol Stein was a contributing editor at Beacon Press. Stein had been Baldwin’s classmate at Clinton High School in the Bronx, where they were both editors of the literary magazine, The Magpie. An early champion of Baldwin’s writing, Stein kept in touch with Baldwin through the years. Knowing the brilliance of Baldwin and wanting him to be published by a house whose sensibilities and ethos were radical and cutting edge, Stein introduced him to Beacon.

“I can’t think of another author on our list that defines the core principles or values of Beacon Press more powerfully than Baldwin,” says Patnaik. “I’m grateful that in subsequent years we continued our commitment to promoting his legacy by publishing Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems and Nothing Personal.”

Today, one hundred years after his birth, Baldwin’s work remains strikingly current and perhaps even more relevant than ever. The essays in the James Baldwin Centennial Series, which range in topic from race and identity to religion and culture, will entice modern readers of all ages, from longstanding Baldwin fans to those discovering his work for the very first time.


The James Baldwin Centennial Series


Everybody's Protest Novel

Everybody’s Protest Novel: Essays

Baldwin explores the Black experience through the lens of popular media, critiquing the ways in which Black characters—in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Richard Wright’s novel Native Son, and the 1950s film Carmen Jones—are reduced to digestible and dehumanizing caricatures. 


The Harlem Ghetto

The Harlem Ghetto: Essays

In “The Harlem Ghetto,” Baldwin introduces readers to his native city, analyzing the role of the Black leader and the Black press within the fabric of US politics. Baldwin describes the religious underpinnings of the city and the complex and historically fraught relationship between the American Jew and the Black American. 


Encounter on the Seine

Encounter on the Seine: Essays

This collection examines Baldwin's transformative time in Europe, where he uncovers what it means to be American. Exploring Black life overseas, he immerses the reader in his experiences as a foreigner, his troubling encounter with a Parisian prison, and his unprecedented arrival to a tiny Swiss village.

James Baldwin


About the Author 

Mei Su Bailey is the publicity assistant at Beacon Press. She worked at various youth advocacy and literary organizations, including 826 Boston, Dear Asian Youth, and the Fir Acres Writing Workshop. She holds a degree in sociology and anthropology from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and graduated from the Columbia Publishing Course at Oxford. Outside of work, you can find her playing with cats, making things with yarn, and enjoying many bowls of noodle soup with chili oil.