Some time around November 1960 Kalamazoo College hosted author James Baldwin for a week. The chairman of the English Department at the time, Dr. Walter Waring, organized and announced the visit of the guest.
Baldwin, born in 1924 in Harlem, was a novelist, essayist, and social commentator, who, by his 1960 visit to K had published two novels, Go Tell It On The Mountain and Giovanni’s Room. He had also published Notes of a Native Son, a collection of short essays about race relations in the United States and elsewhere that is still assigned to K students today.
Baldwin gave a speech in the chapel as a part of what was then called “English Night,” entitled “the Novel.” Baldwin also spoke about minority rights in a lecture he called “Goals of the American Society.”
There was also opportunity for students to get to know Baldwin more personally with arranged lunches, dinners, and “firesides.” He also made a point to visit several English classes.
“In characterizing the work of James Baldwin,” the November 1960 edition of the The Index summarized, “critics have noted his poetic sensitivity, his narrative skill, his eloquence, his intensity of feeling.”
Baldwin died in France at age 63 having published five novels and numerous essays, plays, and poetry collections.