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James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 - November 30, 1987) was an American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist, and civil rights activist.

Most of Baldwin's work deals with racial and sexual issues in the mid-20th century United States. His novels are notable for the personal way in which they explore questions of identity as well as for the way in which they mine complex social and psychological pressures related to being black and homosexual well before the social, cultural or political equality of these groups could be assumed.

Baldwin's influence on other writers has been profound: Toni Morrison edited the Library of America editions of Baldwin's fiction and essays, and a recent collection of critical essays links these two writers. In 1987, Kevin Brown, a photo-journalist from Baltimore, MD founded the National James Baldwin Literary Society. The group organizes free public events celebrating Baldwin's life and legacy.

In 2005 the USPS created a First-Class Postage Stamp dedicated to him which featured him on the front, and on the back of the peeling paper had a short biography. One of Baldwin's richest short stories, "Sonny's Blues," appears in many anthologies of short fiction used in introductory college literature classes.

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