The Giver by James Baldwin (audio poem)

James Arthur Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924 in New York City’s Harlem. Baldwin had a difficult upbringing, which included an evangelical preacher stepfather who struggled financially and who demanded rigorous religious behavior from his nine children. Baldwin’s personal challenges are reflected in his writings, especially in Go Tell It on the Mountain.

Baldwin was an excellent student who sought escape from his environment through literature, movies, and theater. He served as a junior minister for three years at the Fireside Pentecostal Assembly, but gradually lost his desire to preach as he began to question Christian tenets.

Shortly after he graduated from high school in 1942, Baldwin sought work to help support his brothers and sisters; mental instability had incapacitated his stepfather. Baldwin took a job in the defense industry in Belle Meade, N.J., and there, not for the first time, he was confronted with racism, discrimination, and the debilitating regulations of segregation. The experiences in New Jersey were closely followed by his stepfather’s death, after which Baldwin determined to make writing his sole profession.

Baldwin moved to Greenwich Village and began to write a novel, supporting himself by performing a variety of odd jobs. In 1944 he met author Richard Wright, who helped him to land the 1945 Eugene F. Saxton fellowship. Despite the financial freedom the fellowship provided, Baldwin was unable to complete his novel that year. He found the social tenor of the United States increasingly stifling even though such prestigious periodicals as the NationNew Leader and Commentary began to accept his essays and short stories for publication.

In 1948 he moved to Paris, using funds from a Rosenwald Foundation fellowship to pay his passage. Most critics feel that this journey abroad was fundamental to Baldwin’s development as an author.

“Once I found myself on the other side of the ocean,” Baldwin told the New York Times, “I could see where I came from very clearly, and I could see that I carried myself, which is my home, with me. You can never escape that. I am the grandson of a slave, and I am a writer. I must deal with both.” Baldwin’s move led to a burst of creativity that included Go Tell It on the MountainGiovanni’s Room and other works. He also wrote a series of essays probing the psychic history of the United States along with his inner self. Many critics view Baldwin’s essays as his most significant contribution to American literature. They include “Notes of a Native Son,” “Nobody Knows My Name,” “The Fire Next Time,” “No Name in the Street” and “The Evidence of Things Not Seen.”

James Baldwin biographical details modified from:

Poem source: “The Giver,” by James Baldwin / Poetry Foundation

To learn more about Baldwin, including more poems, click here:

If you are in the U S of A (or abroad) and are observing Fourth of July festivities this weekend, be safe! My holiday weekend just began by rereading the Declaration of Independence. Here is the link, if you’d care to join me: Declaration of Independence. I do not take for granted the freedoms found in this country, compared to some, and yet in a celebratory mood I am not, considering the increasing challenges faced by the working class, the continued gun violence, and the loss of women’s rights. I will celebrate creativity and art, in all its varied forms. Thank you for visiting, reading and listening! Be well. 💗Michele

Photos: Feature photo by photographer, Ryan DeBerardinis / James Baldwin (google images)

© 2022 Michele Lee Sefton

70 thoughts on “The Giver by James Baldwin (audio poem)

      1. I always enjoy your posts.
        Your poems are very beautiful. Then you add your voice to it, so it gives the idea of how your poems are written. This recitation gave the idea of how poet wrote this. Thank you for this lovely share.
        Have a peaceful weekend ahead

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I enjoyed both the poem and your bio, thanks Michele.
    I once worked in the US but one of the reasons I did not stay there permanently was that I thought Europe to be richer in culture. Ironically, that hit me during a visit to the Louvre. It’s easy to understand the thought process that Baldwin went through. The US is most definitely the New World but the Old World lies in Europe.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Very nice poem. You recite it so well. I remember reading Go tell it on the mountain a few years ago. It was a fierce, brutal novel that explores Pentecostalism and abuse. I have if Beale Street could Talk on my kindle. One of these days, I’m going to read it. In the movie The French Dispatch by Wes Anderson, one of the characters is inspired by James Baldwin.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely, yes, The Giver is a well-crafted and interesting poem. Go Tell It on the Mountain is a powerful write, yes. I also found, The Fire Next Time, quite moving. There is only so much time and never a shortage of things to read! Thank you very much, Nitin, for your comment and for sharing the detail about The French Dispatch. I was not aware of that!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So inspiring life story of a Great Author James Baldwin and so lovely his family photos 🌺😍👌🌷
    Such amazing and so will power man he is 👍🏻♥️ and his Audio Poems sure Best and willing to
    read by people 😊A special Tribute to the great and talented poet 🙏👍🏻😊Thank you for sharing
    and grace wishes 🖖happy weekend dear 🌷🙏♥️🌷

    Liked by 2 people

    1. He persevered through many challenges and left a legacy of great work. Thank you very much for reading and respecting this incredible artist whose voice lives on. Have a wonderful weekend, Thattamma. 🙏🏻🌞🌻

      Liked by 2 people

  4. My friend with a sweet voice, thanks for sharing this. I’ve only heard of him once. He was mentioned by my college professor but it’s only now that I’ve known his story. It’s a nice poem, though, coupled with your lovely voice. 😊😊😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ahhh You are so sweet. Thank you very much, Adelheid! It felt like a tremendous honor to read his weighty, timeless, and brilliant words. I am pleased to share and delighted that you enjoyed my post. 🙏🏻🌞

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Michele thank you for sharing this beautiful post. Baldwin’s poems are always so beautiful and profound with a wonderful depth. I did not know he moved to France. I’ve heard this about several African Americans who went there due to racism in the US. Moving there seems to have had a important and beautiful impact on their lives. This includes the first black airplane pilot during WWI.

    And I love your thoughts about celebrating art and music. I too feel the same due to the loss of freedoms recently. Now we will even have more air pollution because of limiting the EPA. And guns and taking away women’s rights makes our country a lot less safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Nico, for your thoughtful and informed feedback. Greatly appreciated! Not mentioned, but yes, the environment was/is on my mind, too. I stopped myself from turning my thoughts into a diatribe of current frustrations. We have many things to be grateful for in this country, but the frustrations are mounting for most people.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful post, Michele. Though James Baldwin is one of my favorite authors, I don’t think I’d ever read The Giver before. It’s amazing. Thank you for sharing it with us today. Have a gorgeous holiday weekend,. 💖🌳🌞

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have previously read quotes from James Baldwin and thought he was great. Thanks for more information! I admire your 4th of July celebrations. Not sure how many Americans know or have read and understand the Declaration of Independence but it is more relevant during these times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are most welcome! I am happy to share info about and poems by Baldwin. Thank you for appreciating! Of course, there are many additional things to celebrate in this life, like beauty and nature. Thank you, I think the historical document is worth a read and revisit! Enjoy your weekend!


  8. Oh Michele my Belle, what an awesome tribute to James Baldwin who is also one of my favorite poets. This poem, “The Giver” is such an appropriate message for today. You did a lovely job with your recitation and an excellent review of the author. He was certainly a well-developed author and activist. Thanks so much for sharing his place in history with us my Dancing Queen Poetess! 🤩💃🏼😊👯‍♀️🥰💃🏽🎈 Have a fab 4th of July my friend. Sending you big hugs and smooches! 🤗💋😘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Kymbelina. It was an absolute treat to read Baldwin’s words and create a post in his honor. Such a talent! 👏🏻 I hope you are enjoying your 4th with tasty treats, yummy drinks, dancing feet, and fun conversation. 🍹💃🏽🎇😘

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Michele my Belle, you are the sweetest of sweets my dancing queen! 🩰 You are so in touch with life and living. I know you are having a FANtabulous day because that is just the way you roll my dear friend. Enjoy every morsel of this day pretty lady. 🍸🥰💖🤍💙🤗🥂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I was not familiar with his work, but now I shall be looking for his books. That’s stunning poetry! Thank you for this wonderful post! As always, listening to you read with such calmness in your voice is quite a wonderful experience.😊

    Liked by 1 person

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